Cassidy touts ‘infrastructure wins’ for Louisiana

Published 11:06 am Saturday, July 15, 2023

Work is being done to put high-speed, affordable broadband in every Louisiana home, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy.

Cassidy said Tuesday the move the “latest in a long-string in infrastructure wins.” The biggest of these? Statewide access to broadband internet.

“You could be in the most rural parish, and the small business in your parish, the family in your parish, will be able to achieve their potential,” he said. “They need that high-speed internet to achieve it.”

On June 26, his office announced more than $1.3 billion in broadband funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts (IIJA) — a 2021 federal law that authorized $1.2 trillion for transportation and infrastructure spending.

Cassidy was an original member of the bipartisan group of senators that spearheaded the bill; Broadband was one of his focuses. “Funding and investing in broadband was a priority when negotiating. We’re seeing the benefit.”

The $1,355,554,552.94 in funding comes from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program, which provides $42.45 billion for the expansion of high-speed internet access.

According to a news release from Cassidy’s office, a formula to ensure funding is utilized in underserved areas was included in the bill. This formula is calculated by considering the amount of unserved and underserved broadband recipients in every state. That information is provided by broadband internet-coverage maps.

The $1.4 billion will support broadband expansion efforts already underway via the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO) grant program, which assists private providers in the facilitation of broadband installation in underserved Louisiana communities.

Since the first round of grants last summer, $170 million was awarded to 50 parishes and 80,000 locations.

Put simply, Cassidy said that IIJA is delivering for the state. “I think Louisiana is on track to be the most, if not one of the most, benefited states in our entire nation on a per capita basis.

“It’s going to make our traffic better, it’s going to make our roads and bridges safer and we’re investing in the next generation of Louisianians.”

As an example, he noted that the State is receiving 12.5 percent of the total first-round mega-grants from IIJA for the Calcasieu River Bridge alone. Statewide, he said that there will be 300 more Louisiana bridges built or upgraded in the next 5 years.

Nationally, Louisiana ranks top 5 amongst bridge grants and top 7 for total phase-one funding for plugging orphaned oil and gas wells.  “We’re getting more than our fair share, but that’s because, frankly, I had a seat at the table.”