By Paige Nash
Representatives from AT&T met with police jurors and a group of interested citizens from Bienville Parish on Tuesday, January 24.
AT&T signed a grant agreement for a project area within Bienville Parish on November 21 of this past year. The program helping with the cost of this project is the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO) grant program.
Louisiana State Director with AT&T Stephanie Doiron said, “We are officially starting our design and engineering process. The GUMBO program is helping us with the construction cost. We are bringing our own dollars to that to build it out, but it will also require ongoing maintenance and upgrades over time.”
Over the last three years AT&T has spent $1.1 billion in Louisiana in both wire-line and wireless networks.
“We are not new to fiber connectivity,” said Doiron. “A residential type build in this area will be new to us in terms of building in that particular area but we have over 420,000 locations here in Louisiana that have our fiber services.”
This will be a fiber network from end to end with the fiber coming from the central office to residents and businesses within this project area allowing them access to high-speed internet up to 5 gigabytes.
The project area that was approved by GUMBO covers a portion of Arcadia. There are an estimated 650 locations within this project area.
There is an Affordable Connectivity Program available for households at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. Residents could also take advantage of this program if they participate in federal assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, Medicaid or if they have received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year. A resident or someone within your household must only meet one of the criteria to be eligible.
For only $30 a month eligible households will receive internet with speeds up to 100 megabytes per second, unlimited data, free installation, in-home Wi-Fi access. Households will not be required to sign an annual contract, put down a deposit or pay for equipment fees.
Gerald Long serves as the point person for broadband expansion for Senator Bill Cassidy’s office attended the meeting and expressed his excitement for this project.
“This is going to be a game changer in our rural parishes. It is going to be extremely important,” said Long. “We have approximately 350,000 residents in Louisiana who have qualified for the Affordable Connectivity Program. One of the things we are finding is there are more people who qualify for this than they realize.”
The AT&T Representatives stressed the importance of having cooperation and close collaboration from the governing bodies on a local level in the parish.
AT&T is currently in the engineering phase of this project, but the build out is expected to be completed within at least 36 months.
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