Louisiana is receiving $176.7 million for broadband infrastructure projects, the US Department of the Treasury announced Tuesday.
Nearly 88,500 Louisiana homes and businesses currently lacking access will get connected to the internet at speeds of 25/3 Mbps, the first step to faster internet speeds, with this first release of funding approved under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. The CPF award will close the digital divide for approximately 25% of locations lacking high-speed internet access in the state, according to a press release.
“The pandemic exposed longstanding challenges that workers and families face when they don’t have adequate access to the internet, especially those living in rural deputy areas and other unconnected communities,” Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in the press release. “This funding through the American Rescue Plan will help connect thousands of homes and businesses in Louisiana with affordable high-speed internet and help close the digital divide in communities where connectivity is needed most.”
A connection speed of 100 Mbps, or million binary digits of data per second, is fast enough to download small files quickly, stream movies, and operate with multiple users to simultaneously access the internet for remote working, education and health monitoring.
About 85% of Louisiana’s residents have access to high-speed internet, ranking the state at 40th, according to BroadbandNow, a Los Angeles-based website that compares local internet providers.
But most that ability is in the large urban areas of south Louisiana. Baton Rouge and its Livingston and Ascension parish suburbs are more than 98% connected. Rural areas have a much more challenging time getting internet that can handles those speeds. Some parishes, such as Catahoula and LaSalle, are totally without such infrastructure , according to BroadbandNow.
Treasury designed its guidance to prioritize connecting families and businesses with poor and inadequate service – particularly in rural and remote areas.
“We are grateful to be recognized and given approval by the Deputy Secretary of Treasury Wally Adeyemo as one of the first four states to have our State Broadband Grant Program (GUMBO) plan formally approved,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press release. “The digital divide presents a great challenge to the people of Louisiana, but it’s a challenge that we will overcome.”
GUMBO is designed to select projects that will provide internet service with speeds of 100 Mbps to households and businesses.
Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia are the first four states approved to receive money from the Capital Projects Fund.
In addition to the $10 billion provided by the CPF, many governments are using a portion of their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) toward connecting every American household to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.