Breaking News: Louisiana Continues to Lead the Nation on Federal Broadband Funding

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Friday, December 15, 2023

Digital Beat

Breaking News: Louisiana Continues to Lead the Nation on Federal Broadband Funding

“Be like Louisiana. When it comes to submitting BEAD documents, there’s no time like the present.”—NTIA's Alan Davidson

This morning, the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that Louisiana is the first state to win approval for its Initial Proposal for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. The state is “on track to be the first state to break ground on high-speed internet networks,” said Mitch Landrieu, senior advisor to President Biden on infrastructure coordination.

This approval means that Louisiana's Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity (known as ConnectLA) to move from the planning phase to the implementation phase for the BEAD program. ConnectLA now has one year to submit a Final Proposal that details, among other things, the outcome of its subgrantee selection process and how the state will ensure service to all unserved and underserved locations.

Veneeth Iyengar, executive director of Louisiana's Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, said, "It is [a] sense of urgency that has made us successful in understanding what people need, which is vital to writing good policy and getting our plans approved."

Established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the BEAD Program is providing $42.45 billion to states, territories, and the District of Columbia for competitive grant programs focused on deploying (or upgrading) broadband networks to ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service. Louisiana is slated to receive $1.3 billion in BEAD support. 

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson said Louisiana submitted a “sophisticated and high-quality plan” for BEAD. He pointed to the state’s workforce plan as one example. He also praised the state’s plan to encourage funding recipients to use buried fiber cabling, which is more costly but less prone to weather-related outages in comparison with aerial fiber.

"Today, Louisiana is one step closer to delivering affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service to all,” said Administrator Davidson. “I salute the ConnectLA team for developing a sophisticated and high-quality plan focused on creating jobs and building resilient networks that will serve the state for years to come.”

For networks built with BEAD funds in Louisiana, ConnectLA will require a low-cost service option: a baseline $30 per month offering. ConnectLA's plan also includes an evidence-based waiver process for providers to follow to charge up to $65 (upon demonstrating to the state a $30 priced plan would be financially unsustainable). The state will also allow the provider’s low-cost plan to increase each year based on the Consumer Price Index, up to a max of 3 percent to account for inflation.

"I want to thank the Biden-Harris administration for ushering in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that made this possible along with Senator Bill Cassidy and Congressman Troy Carter,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA). “Today's announcement is a testament to the sense of urgency that my administration has worked to ensure that high-speed internet is not only accessible but reliable for every single Louisianan. Our plan stresses resilience, connectivity and affordability, and we will implement it as submitted with shovel ready projects set to begin next year. Not only that, but our partnership with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System will make certain we develop a very strong, skilled and credentialed workforce for the infrastructure jobs that are to come.”

Gov. Edwards expects to see ground broken on some BEAD-funded projects in 2024.

“This is a monumental achievement that emphasizes Louisiana’s commitment to equity in internet usage. Being the first state authorized to request access to BEAD funds, we are leading the way in closing the digital divide, ensuring that every citizen has affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband access,” said Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA). “By prioritizing the internet as an essential tool for communication, Louisiana sets an example for other states in utilizing BEAD funds to bridge technological disparities, creating a more inclusive and connected society.”

Kudos for Louisiana are rolling in.

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield said, "NTCA applauds the achievement of this significant milestone in the BEAD program—the first opportunity for these historic funds to flow for their intended purpose of broadband deployment. We look forward to continued work with NTIA, the state broadband offices and other stakeholders to implement the BEAD program in a manner that will make the most efficient and effective use of funds possible and fulfill its promise of delivering broadband built to last to all Americans.”

“Louisiana set the stage today and now serves as a reference point for other states charting their own path to develop an NTIA-approved plan for BEAD, including a low-cost option," said Jake Varn, the Associate Manager of Policy & Engagement at The Pew Charitable Trusts' Broadband Access Initiative. "The state’s low-cost option strikes a practical balance between setting the floor for an affordable plan and allowing for good-faith concerns from providers that can prove they are unable to sustainably reach and maintain that price point, while still setting a ceiling on what the state will tolerate as low-cost. Combined with the Affordable Connectivity Program’s $30 subsidy for eligible households, Louisiana’s proposal will help ensure high-speed, affordable internet is available to every unserved and underserved home and business in the Bayou State."

“A few short years ago, many might have thought that universal broadband in Louisiana was an impossible dream. But the leadership of Veneeth Iyengar and the state’s partnership with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is making the impossible possible. Louisiana is on a path to closing its digital divide. We hope that other states will follow Louisiana’s example and get this job done,” said Benton institute for Broadband & Society Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss. 

Through ConnectLA's leadership, Louisiana has also been recognized nationally in a number of ways:

  • First state to received approval from the US Treasury for its plan to spend $176 Million in American Rescue Plan Dollars
  • First recipient of initial support from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
  • First in adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Program on a per capita basis

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

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