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Rapides Parish Police Jury asks legislature to fund high-speed broadband for rural Louisiana

File photo of a laptop keyboard.
File photo of a laptop keyboard.(Elise Amendola | AP)
Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 7:46 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Central Louisiana officials are pushing to expand high-speed broadband to rural areas. On Monday, Feb. 7, the Rapides Parish Police Jury was the latest by passing a resolution to request the state legislature to fully fund the newly created State Office of Broadband as well as expand high-speed internet to rural areas.

Several members of Cenla’s delegation are pushing to expand high-speed broadband to underserved areas. State Rep. Mike Johnson, R-District 27, presented the resolution to the Rapides Parish Police Jury on Monday. The resolution passed unanimously.

“The need is great all over our area and the state,” said Rep. Johnson, in a written statement to KALB. “The only way we can accomplish this goal is to work together.”

Johnson and Avoyelles Parish State Rep. Darryl Deshotel, R-District 28, have been at the forefront of expanding high-speed broadband. Most recently, Rep. Johnson applied for a USDA grant to help fund improving internet access in rural areas in Rapides Parish. In December, the USDA approved the application. The grant award will be more than 12 million dollars for the Poland, Echo and Cheneyville communities to get high-speed internet. The money from the USDA will build a fiber broadband network from Cheneyville to the Poland and Echo areas.

“Rapides Police Jury made a strong statement with tonight’s resolution,” said Rep. Deshotel, in a written statement to KALB. “I look forward to working with Rapides and all parishes across Louisiana to improve high-speed internet access for the communities they serve. Investing in quality broadband is a vitally important, bi-partisan issue that requires federal, state and local governments to work together. I urge all parish governments to adopt similar resolutions as we unite to solve the connectivity problem that has held our state back for far too long.”

Rep. Johnson told KALB that he expects about half of the state’s parishes to approve similar resolutions ahead of the spring legislative session.

The resolution calls on the state to pass legislation “which will invest in the installation of high-speed internet for rural Louisiana.”

“It’s important to rural residents that legislation be passed to provide internet service to allow for economic and personal engagement with the rest of the United States,” said Craig Smith, Rapides Parish Police Jury President, in a written statement to KALB. “With the COVID pandemic, I think we have realized this importance as we have been forced to work from home and virtual education for some residents.

The state legislative session will start on April 12.

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