The future of broadband in Central Louisiana

Goal is for every Louisiana resident to have high speed broadband by 2029
Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 6:24 PM CDT
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - High-speed broadband has become a vital part of everyone’s daily lives but there are still many people in Central Louisiana without access.

The North Rapides Business and Industry Alliance group met Friday to discuss the future of broadband and said that it is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

Vaneeth Iyengar, the first Executive Director of Broadband Development and Connectivity for Louisiana, said, “There are approximately half a million households that are considered unserved, which represents nearly 1.2 million people in Louisiana that don’t have the adequate broadband speeds. That’s now going to be a requirement now and into the future.”

Not having access to high-speed broadband has not only affected households but also when it comes to attracting new businesses, telehealth and education. Over 200,000 students last year were unable to do virtual learning due to not having internet.

Rapides Parish Superintendent Jeff Powell was one of the speakers at the meeting and said that the students who don’t have proper internet access are more than likely to be nine to 27 months behind their peers when it comes to academic achievement.

Measures are being taken on the state and federal level to make sure they bridge the broadband barriers like infrastructure, affordability and digital literacy. A pool of federal money is being allocated to Louisiana for $180 million as part of the American Rescue Plan to be used for remote access projects.

District 28 State Representative Daryl Deshotel said, “We have to make sure we do this correctly and make sure we don’t waste $180 million. We need that money to go to the families that need it.”

Deshotel recently created a broadband grant program that is now under consideration by the Louisiana legislature for private industries to provide services to their areas.

The local officials also heard from different internet providers at the meeting who are all investing in Central Louisiana for better access.

“One of the things that we really want to focus on is building the connectivity to start to bridge that digital divide. We want to rapidly reduce the number of those folks that are unserved but also look at different technologies that we think are going to be critical to helping improve those increasing speeds,” said Iyengar.

The goal is for every resident to have access to high-speed broadband by 2029.

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