Louisiana community wins $4 million to build better broadband
East Carroll Parish residents celebrate as they take a step towards high-speed internet access
Residents in East Carroll Parish, a rural Louisiana town, were celebrating last week as they were awarded a $4 million state grant to bring high-speed internet to the community.
The award will have a huge impact on the community where local advocates have — for over two years — been working to improve internet access for residents and businesses who face high prices for unreliable service, often at speeds far below the federal definition for broadband.
Connect Humanity partnered with church-based coalition Delta Interfaith to support their tireless efforts to bring better broadband to the community. Our support included providing a grant to fund a Digital Equity Master Plan — plans which are necessary to turn a project from shovel worthy to shovel ready, helping to identify residents’ digital needs, define technical requirements, and determine the finances required to build the network.
The $4 million grant, awarded by Louisiana’s GUMBO program — Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities — will supplement the cost of building a fiber optic network that will be available to nearly 2,500 homes and businesses in the least connected parish in Louisiana. The community has partnered with rural internet service provider Conexon Connect to design and build the network.
Resident Latanya Gray Swift and her children celebrated the news along with other residents. Like many others in East Carroll, they have been without affordable, reliable broadband service for years.
“During the pandemic, when the kids were at home, it was horrible,” Swift said. “Now, I’ll have access to filling out applications, keeping my benefits going. I don’t have to go all the way to the library to send an email, I’ll have access right here at my fingertips.”
60% of East Carroll households currently have no internet-enabled device and 63% have no internet subscription. In a low-income area with high unemployment, fast fiber internet could have a transformative impact on the community: delivering opportunities to learn and work from home, encouraging businesses to open in the area and enabling residents to access a range of services including telehealth — which is hugely important in a town where a medical appointment often means a 70-mile drive.
Once completed, East Carroll’s 220-mile fiber-optic network will give customers some of the fastest connectivity in the country with symmetrical gigabit upload and download speeds on plans starting from $49.95 a month — far lower than residents are currently paying for substandard service.
In a world where internet access is the basis of economic opportunity and basic services, it’s inspiring to see people in East Carroll, who have been underserved and redlined for too long, take their digital futures into their own hands. This is a transformative moment for this community — and beyond — as it serves as an example of what’s possible.
Delta Interfaith is hosting a project launch event on Thursday, August 25 at 7:30pm at East Carroll Parish Library in Lake Providence, Louisiana. Details at www.deltainterfaith.org.
Read our case study on East Carroll Parish to find out more about the project.