Parish to get almost $1 million for broadband

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The chart above shows the funding received by Natchitoches and some neighboring parishes, the provider and number of locations affected.

Natchitoches Parish was awarded $947,947.34 in GUMBO funding for broadband.
Gov. John Bel Edwards was joined by state lawmakers, locally elected leaders in North Louisiana and Higher Education Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed to announce a $130 million investment from the America Rescue Plan to bring more affordable and accessible internet to more than 66,000 households and small businesses through Internet Service Providers in 50 parishes.
Applications for the first phase of the grant were submitted through Louisiana’s broadband grant program called Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO). 
The total investment from the American Rescue Plan is $176 million, out of which the $130 million is being used for this first phase.
Parishes not included in this first round will have another opportunity.
In Natchitoches Parish, the award went to CSC Holdings, LLC, for 313 locations. Total project cost is $1,895,894.68.
CSC Holdings, LLC, operates as a holding company. The company, through its subsidiaries, provides cable and telecommunications services. The company offers internet protection, WiFi hotspots, router, mobile TV application, cable boxes and mobile data services. Incorporated in December 1985, it is based in Bethpage, NY. Their website is www.optimum.net according to Bloomberg.
The announcement highlights the groundwork began in 2019 when Gov. Edwards signed an executive order creating the Broadband for Everyone Louisiana Commission with the goal of eliminating the digital divide by 2029. 

This article published in the July 28, 2022, print edition. To subscribe to either our print, e-edition or both, call 318-352-3618.

“We learned a great deal from the pandemic about how critical it is to have high-speed internet in Louisiana,” said Gov. Edwards. “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.”
In 2020, Gov. Edwards created the Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, ConnectLA, led by Executive Director Veneeth Iyengar.   
“Today culminates all of the hard work that our stakeholders (teacher, parents, small business owners, public safety, parish officials etc.) have given towards addressing the digital divide,” said Iyengar. “These investments will not only address the access issues but will create hundreds and thousands of good paying jobs that will impact people’s trajectory in their communities.”
To address the estimated 462,000 Louisianians who lack basic digital literacy skills, ConnectLA, the Louisiana Board of Regents, the Louisiana Department of Education and the State Library of Louisiana have partnered to establish pilot programs in multiple parishes to reduce the digital illiteracy rate in those parishes by 50 percent over five years. Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Kim Hunter Reed announced the launch of five Digital Literacy & Inclusion Pilot sites embedded in rural and urban library in East Carroll, Jefferson, Livingston, Rapides and West Feliciana Parishes. 
Broadband access and affordability are intrinsically linked to better outcomes in education, healthcare, economic development and more.