LUS Fiber – Lafayette, Louisiana’s fiber system, today received a $3.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to develop and build broadband infrastructure in rural southwest Louisiana, in conjunction with the Acadiana Planning Commission (APC).

The funds will be used to expand the company’s all-fiber network through additional portions of Lafayette Parish, St. Martin Parish, and Iberia Parish beginning later this year, with planned completion by the end of 2023.

“In a post-COVID economy, the challenge to bring reliable broadband to Acadiana’s rural communities has become as important as the delivery of other basic utilities. The capacity to upload, download and live stream, sometimes simultaneously while others in the office or home are doing the same thing, has strong implications on Acadiana’s rural economic survival. Decisions that we make today about broadband expansion will determine which of Acadiana’s towns will survive in the future. Those left behind in broadband delivery will be just that – left behind,” said Monique Boulet, Acadiana Planning Commission CEO, in a prepared statement about the LUS Fiber grant.

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The Acadiana Planning Commission handles planning and implementation of community, watershed, transportation and economic development throughout the Acadiana region as well as serving as the technical staff for Acadiana’s regional planning commission, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Louisiana Watershed Initiative Region 5, and the Opportunity Zone Invest Acadiana initiative.

EDA grants are “designed to leverage existing local assets and support the implementation of economic development strategies that advance innovation and creative approaches to accelerate economic prosperity and long term, sustainable growth in distressed communities,” according to a press release.

The grant that LUS Fiber received was from the USDA EDA Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance program and was enabled by the CARES Act.

It’s quite common for broadband providers to receive funding for rural deployments through government programs such as the Universal Service Fund program or the USDA ReConnect program. The LUS funding provided by the Commerce EDA program is less common, as that type of funding is only available to public or non-profit entities.

Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.

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