JACKSON, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisianans in rural corners of the state are getting closer to having more affordable and reliable internet. The first wave of funding to expand broadband through the American Rescue Plan is rolling out. 

Governor John Bel Edwards paid a visit to Jackson, Louisiana in East Feliciana Parish where people will be able to greatly benefit from the program. 

“This is going to be true high-speed fiber, connected internet,” Gov. Edwards said.

130 million dollars from the federal government is being rolled out in the first wave to 50 parishes. For the last several months, parishes and cities have been able to sign up for the program through the Granting Underserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities or GUMBO which was formed through legislation. Since 2020, the new Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity has been working to find partnerships to make the change happen.

In East Feliciana, over 2,300 homes will get to tap into the better connection. Schools are constantly evolving to incorporate more technology so students don’t fall behind in the digital age, and strong internet is needed for that. During the pandemic, students took Chromebooks and hotspots home but it wasn’t always reliable enough to get all the work done.

“Before our students can lead us into a brighter future, we will meet their foundational educational needs. Today, broadband Internet is one of those needs,” East Feliciana Parish Public Schools Superintendent Keisha Netterville said.

The state is partnering with AT&T to build the fiber optic lines throughout 50 parishes in the first wave. The goal is to help rural areas better compete when it comes to business and education as the metro areas so slow internet doesn’t hold them back.

“How great is it going to be for the students there to be able to access more courses without actually having to go into Baton Rouge… And if you’ve got students at your school who can actually do their homework from home,” Gov. Edwards said.

There is no timeline yet of when the construction on the lines will begin in the area. A total of 66,000 households across the state will soon have access to broadband expansion. There will be a second round to capture more cities and parishes that have not been selected for the first wave. Learn more at connect.la.gov.