Away from urban centers, and economic capitals, many of Louisiana’s rural areas are still struggling to stay connected with the rest of the world due to the lack of available and affordable internet service.
But this will all soon change, as the state funnels subsidies into building infrastructure through grants and various initiatives.
Here are some of Louisiana’s initiatives geared towards bringing high-speed internet to Lafourche, and other rural communities!
Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO)
One of the hurdles many telecom companies have in bringing to many rural areas like Lafourche internet services has been capital. With the GUMBO grant, eligible companies and start-ups will receive subsidies from the government for building the infrastructure necessary to serve these communities with broadband-speed internet.
As of July 2024, 67 companies have already been awarded the GUMBO grant amounting to a total of $137 Million, with some building and groundwork already underway despite some delays.
ConnectLA or the Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity is a dedicated government office for all resources pertaining to broadband development in Louisiana. The body aims to connect private and public sectors and stakeholders in the mission of eliminating the digital divide in Louisiana by 2029.
With a dedicated government entity focusing on bringing the internet to underserved and unserved communities in Louisiana, communities like Lafourche will soon benefit from gaining access to affordable and high-speed broadband and further closing the digital divide in the state.
Digital Literacy Campaign
Louisiana also acknowledges the need for digital literacy for its constituents, as the digital gap is apparent in many of its communities still unserved or unreached by broadband services. While it is a challenging task, the Louisiana Library Network is taking this on with its statewide digital inclusion pilot.
The pilot program “seeks to reduce the percentage of Louisiana residents who lack the digital skills to fully participate in today’s society where essential functions are increasingly through digital technologies.” This educational campaign is also giving easy access to stakeholders to the necessary devices and technology needed to be connected to the internet and its many resources -broadband connectivity being one of them.
Broadband for Everyone in Louisiana (BEL)
With the State of Louisiana’s BEL Commission or Broadband for Everyone in Louisiana, citizens of Louisiana, whether in urban or rural areas, will soon gain access to broadband and other related services. The plan is to fully provide the entire state of Louisiana with up to 100 Mbps broadband speeds by 2029.
The commission’s purpose is to serve as “lead facilitator and collaborate with all sectors to successfully complete this plan, embracing all communities to encourage broadband adoption and availability and use of all technologies that can deploy, operate, and maintain high levels of broadband service.”
The Need for High-Speed Internet in Lafourche
The lack of such infrastructure is substantially hampering the economic development and other needs of this community. High-speed internet-equipped areas are significantly more prosperous and have grown exponentially in comparison to those that have not yet achieved this access.
The citizens of Lafourche realize the importance of having high-speed internet for providing a vibrant, growing economy, good education for their children, better healthcare opportunities, and more efficient government services. To meet these demands, broadband providers and the state government want to deliver better Internet services through a combination of wired and wireless access technologies across this parish.
High-Speed broadband buildouts require significant investments and should be focused in areas where there is an increased demand. Therefore Lafayette has identified potential end-user applications (businesses, schools, etc.) that have a high usage potential and would benefit from having access to fast reliable internet despite being situated in rural/remote locations. Efforts are then made towards mapping out broadband service availability as far as user requirements go so as to develop plans for leveraging investments into targeted zones with greater need levels first.
The State Government of Louisiana has stepped up its efforts starting from 2018 by setting up targeted mapping plans aimed at covering 90% of its population with high-speed broadband services by 2025; making Louisiana a leader among states working on closing the digital divide in rural communities like Lafourche Parish.
The Benefits of High-Speed
High-speed internet access has become an integral part of modern life. Increased access brings numerous benefits to residents in Lafourche and surrounding areas, from education and healthcare to economic growth potential.
High-speed internet allows for increased access to e-learning materials, as well as the improved ability to connect with educators and peers online. This makes virtual classrooms more accessible, meaning students in rural areas can participate in core educational activities, with their instructors and fellow classmates all over the world. In addition, the interactive medium allows for better engagement across subjects than can be achieved through traditional methods of learning.
Lafourche residents are now able to connect with healthcare professionals more quickly while improving the accuracy of diagnostics and patient outcomes. High-speed internet allows remote or home health care providers to monitor their patient’s vital signs via video conferencing or other digital mediums. This enables physicians to check vital signs remotely rather than having a patient come into a medical office for routine check-ups, increasing safety and convenience for everyone involved.
Economic Growth Potential
Faster internet speeds promote business growth beyond Lafourche by encouraging entrepreneurs inside the community who might not otherwise have been able to reach larger markets through traditional methods of networking and advertising due to cost restraints or slow connectivity speeds associated with prior generations of broadband availability.
Accessible high-speed connections enable business owners in relatively rural locations like Lafourche Parish such as B&B Provisions Networks Corp., Inc., WESCO Utility Services Group LLC etc., where larger customer bases are accessible through e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy – boosting sales which translates into an increase in economic expansion opportunities beyond their local community networks – creating new job opportunities that have never been possible before at an accelerated rate due cultural intelligence expansion throughout Louisiana communities.
With these initiatives in place, parishes like Lafourche will no longer have to be left behind in terms of technology and other services. Local economies will start benefiting from the connectivity. Education, healthcare, and other social services will become faster and more accessible to all, no matter the geographical difference.