At the meeting of the Jackson Parish Police Jury that was held on May 23rd, Gerald Long, who serves as the point person for US Senator Bill Cassidy’s office, provided an update on the ongoing Broadband Expansion Project in Jackson Parish.
Cassidy helped author and pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law last year. This Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is set to distribute a total of $65 billion in broadband funding for the deployment and adoption of affordable and reliable high-speed internet over the next five years. All states will receive a minimum of $100 million with the remaining $60 billion being distributed to states according to their levels of unserved and underserved areas. Through his continued effort, the state of Louisiana was the first state to receive money from this Act.
Long opened by reminding the jurors of the last time he had the opportunity to address the panel. He also complimented the group on the effort they have put forth and expressed his excitement for what the future holds for Jackson Parish.
“The Broadband Program started roughly three years ago, and I remember my first meeting with you where we talked about creating a task force to bring this to Jackson Parish,” said Long. “Believe me you guys have raised the bar. Your work has been an example throughout the state and something that I think you can be genuinely proud of.”
Next Long spoke about the priority this project has on a statewide basis and provided projections on what is hoped to be an estimated completion date.
“The important thing that we want to relate to you is that we are going to finish the game. This is not going to be a project that is going to be done haphazardly and it will continue until completion,” stressed Long. “The timeline for the state of Louisiana is that by the end of the calendar year 2029, every household and business in the state who wishes to have reliable and affordable internet service will have the opportunity to be connected.”
From there Long spoke specifically about what is currently taking place in Jackson Parish and complimented the local government leaders for how they positioned the parish to receive top funding from the Grant.
“In the original GUMBO (Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities) package passed by the Louisiana Legislature, Jackson Parish did great.” Said Long. “This is the result of you putting up the highest percentage of “match money” in north Louisiana and through your outstanding contribution, your portion of the GUMBO money ended up being 6.8 million dollars.”
(By definition “match money” is the non-federal share of the total project costs that a grantee is required to contribute to achieve the purposes of the award)
“What this means for Jackson Parish is that 1991 homes and 150 businesses have been identified to be immediately connected with high speed, affordable internet services,” beamed Long. “Furthermore, the provider (broadband installation company) has told us that additional locations will be added as they are close enough to the original sites that it can be done feasibly for them.”
Adding to the exciting news, Long then let the audience know that has also learned that in August or September of this year that the state is in line to receive a huge windfall from Cassidy’s Infrastructure Bill and an even more astounding amount in the future.
“While meeting with Governor (Jon Bel) Edwards the other day, I was told that In August or September, the state was going to receive $225 million dollars and over the next five years will get 2.5 BILLION dollars from the Federal Government.”
Long concluded by saying that as a result of this recent news, instead of the original five-year timeline projection of having every resident in Jackson Parish connected to high-speed internet if they desire, the project completion date could be as short as 3-4 years now.