Webster Parish receives $15M for broadband

By Paige Nash

Gerald Long with Senator Bill Cassidy’s Office attended the Webster Parish Police Jury meeting on Tuesday, June 6, making this meeting 195 that he has sat in on across portions of the state speaking about broadband.  

“Things are very good in Webster Parish. You were the recipient of a very large GUMBO (Granting Underserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities) grant in the first funding that took place, which was over $15 million for Webster Parish which would connect small businesses and homes and about 4,000 residents,” said Long.  

Although Louisiana is rated pretty low on the scale when it comes to many things, Louisiana is rated as the number 1 state in the nation when it comes to the progress being made in expanding broadband services. 

An Infrastructure Bill crafted by Senator Bill Cassidy and 9 other senators provided 1.2 billion for Louisiana going towards this broadband mission. 

It has been projected that by November at the latest, Louisiana will be the first union in the nation to receive the first round of funding in the amount of $220 million.  

“We want to be progressive in doing what we promised we were going to do,” said Long. “This is personal to Bill Cassidy. He really wants Louisiana to excel. It is a game changer. It is going to change our economy. It is going to change our education system, even the way we worship. With high-speed internet affordable services to every home, we are going to be able to move on into areas we have never moved into before.” 

Juror for District #3 Daniel Thomas agreed. He said, “I personally think that broadband could be the most important thing we could be working on right now as far as rural Louisiana especially.” 

An audience member was curious why some residents in the parish have neighbors right next door that are eligible at this time to receive internet services while some are not.  

Long explained that he receives this question quite often. He said, “That is the role and purpose of this program, to eliminate the digital divide, so that everyone will have access to high-speed affordable internet. We have found a very cooperative spirit with many of these providers. I use AT&T only as an example, but they personally told me that if they go into an area that is clearly defined to what we are to provide services for. We are going to pick up that next street because we are already there.” 

Following Long’s presentation, Webster Parish Police Jury President Jim Bonsall mentioned that he attended last month’s meeting at Claiborne Electric and said it was decided they would be partnering with Connexcom, a telecommunications provider, to further expand internet services. The partnership will mean that Connexcom will be able to use Claiborne Electric’s light poles and by doing so, they will be providing internet services to all Claiborne Electric members.   

“Mark Brown from Claiborne Electric said that Connexcom was planning on getting started next month,” said Bonsall.  

Long confirmed this information and said he had previously attended a meeting in Claiborne Parish. He said, “A few days after that I received a phone call that Claiborne Electric and Connexcom have come to an understanding and agreement. This is going to speed things up so quickly, so that these providers will have access to equipment that is already in place.” 

By the end of 2028 it is projected that Louisiana will have high-speed internet extended to 95 percent of residents and businesses.