Monroe hosted the final leg of the nationwide broadband promotion tour on Monday evening, a step that seemed productive, as local leaders got answers to some of their questions about aid to finance the effort.
Community leaders and officials from the Louisiana Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, also known as ConnectLA, gathered at the Monroe Convention Center to discuss broadband opportunities in the area and the launch of the state Grant Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program ( GUMBO).
The GUMBO program plans to allocate $ 180 million in federal funds to Internet service providers to provide high-speed Internet access to 400,000 homes in Louisiana. The program will fund eligible projects through a competitive grant process that started on November 1 and ends on December 31.
Ouachita Parish Police Juror Jack Clampit said the meeting was informative and provided concise information on how to move Ouachita Parish forward.
“The first two meetings I attended, there was a star we were going to aim in the sky but we didn’t know how we were going to get there,” Clampit said. “There was no roadmap but today I heard a lot more and I’m happy.”
ConnectLA Executive Director Veneeth Iyenger said the three ways to resolve the digital divide in the state are access to infrastructure, affordability and digital literacy.
Broadband meeting in Lake Providence:Parishes in northeast Louisiana aim to expand rural broadband access
“Access to infrastructure is where most, if not many of the challenges lie,” said Iyenger. “Affordability is just as important and what we’ve been saying to people is, ‘If we make it accessible, but if we can’t make it affordable, it’s a waste of investment.’ We can make the world’s most wired parishes, we can make it affordable, but if people lack basic foundational skills on what to do with broadband to help improve their lives, both professionally and personally, it’s a waste of time. ”
Iyenger said it is important to support the small businesses that anchor the growth of a municipality.
“This is a great opportunity for the economic development chambers and economic development arms to come together and identify a group of small businesses,” Iyenger said. “Understand what their digital footprint is and help work with ULM or Louisiana Tech or Grambling to help provide a variety of digital literacy skills for these small businesses.”
According to Iyenger, the goal is to allocate the money to beneficiaries before the start of the 2022 legislative session, with construction starting within 30 to 45 days.
Support local journalism by subscribing to https://cm.thenewsstar.com/specialoffer.