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ConnectLA - Bringing Broadband To Rural Louisiana

Courtesy: Chuck Smith / Red River Radio News

RURAL BROADBAND -  There’s going to be a special meeting taking place in Natchitoches, Louisiana later this morning,  the subject of which is how to close the digital divide in Louisiana. There will be a number of stakeholders participating to explore how to increase digital broadband access in the Natchitoches region and other areas.    Veneeth Iyenger is Executive Director for Connect-LA, the state office  of  Broadband and Connectivity for Louisiana and explains the key points the meeting will address.

"When we start to think about the digital divide, we think about three issues:  broadband access, broadband affordability, and broadband literacy," Iyenger explained. "Addressing each of these three has to be done at the same time in order  for us to eliminate the digital-divide that we have in Louisiana by 2029."

"When we start to think about the digital divide, we think about three issues: broadband access, broadband affordability, and broadband literacy," Veneeth Iyenger, Executive Director for Connect-LA, State Office of Broadband and Connectivity for Louisiana

Iyenger says that while Louisiana has a good head start as it’s currently ranked 18th in the nation for broadband, it’s the rural populations  that  are unserved.  The state  has established  a  $180 million  grant program called GUMBO  which stands for Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities and will also receive around $340 million  in federal funding for rural broadband development.   Iyenger says the this funding should incentivize private companies to develop broadband in unserved areas that they normally would not go.

Credit Courtesy: ConnectLA
Courtesy: ConnectLA

The meeting will be held at the Natchitoches City Council Chambers  at 716 Second Street beginning today at 11:30AM.  This event was put together by State Senator Louie Bernard of District 31.  The Connect-LA / Office of Broadbandwas created through an executive order by Governor John Bel Edwards in 2019 and its goal is to provide affordable digital broadband access to everyone in Louisiana by 2029.


Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.