WASHINGTON, March 5, 2010 – The Commerce Department announced an $80 million broadband investment in Louisiana on Friday morning, during a conference call hosted by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
The investment will make more affordable high-speed Internet access for 100,000 households, 15,000 businesses and 1,200 anchor institutions such as libraries and public safety offices.
The money will help the state expand broadband throughout 3,500 square miles that includes 12 impoverished parishes, many of which didn’t even have phone service a few years ago, said Locke
“It will fundamentally improve education, research and healthcare delivery to the state’s neediest areas,” Locke said, adding that one-third of Louisiana’s population currently doesn’t have Internet access and many that do have it use the slower, dial-up services.
“What we’re doing is almost like building a highway,” he said, by rolling out 900 miles of fiber-optic cable. “The private sector can tap into it or connect to it and directly provide internet service to hundreds of thousand of homes.”
Sen. Landrieu, who chairs her chamber’s small business committee, lauded the benefits that broadband will bring to the parishes.
“With a click of the mouse these parishes - that we call delta parishes - will now have access to goods and services” from main streets around the world. She added that high-speed Internet access also helps those without adequate transportation to have access to goods, services, education and other things that they might not otherwise enjoy.
Both Locke and Landrieu also mentioned the $1.3 million broadband grant for Louisiana announced earlier this week for the Betty and Leonard Phillips Deaf Action Center in Shreveport. The funds will be used to install 81 new videoconferencing stations and enhance service at 19 existing stations serving people with hearing disabilities in Louisiana, Alabama, California and Texas.