Louisiana will be distributing $130 million in funds for broadband deployments in the state, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced yesterday. The funding will come from the state’s Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO) program, which received funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
The Louisiana funds are expected to support affordable and accessible internet to more than 66,000 households and small businesses through service providers in 50 parishes. Parishes not included in this first round will have another opportunity to participate in a future round of the program.
Large carriers were some of the biggest GUMBO award recipients, with AT&T taking $19 million alone. Cox, Charter, and Comcast also won funding.
With yesterday’s announcement, Louisiana joins North Carolina, Arizona, Maryland, Wisconsin, and several other states that are releasing funds for broadband expansion. Some programs are funded, at least in part, through programs created in the ARPA and the CARES Act. More federal broadband money will flow to the states once the BEAD program gets underway.
“We learned a great deal from the pandemic about how critical it is to have high-speed internet in Louisiana,” said Gov. Edwards, in a prepared statement. “With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to reaching our goal of eliminating the digital divide in the next seven years. However, we are not just stopping here. We have another $43 million in funds from the ARP we will award by October, and we are expecting an additional significant amount of federal funds from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that will be awarded next year to continue to address access, affordability and literacy.”
The state is also attempting to help residents with basic literacy skills through the ConnectLA initiative, which will work in cooperation with government groups to establish pilot programs in multiple parishes aimed at reducing the digital illiteracy rate in those parishes by 50% over five years.
Five pilot sites announced today will receive $20,000 each to assess their community’s needs for digital literacy and provide instructional opportunities such as skills assessment, self-directed on-line learning, and digital skill building.