Mark Ballard: Who will finally get good internet? Politics provides the answer in Louisiana | Mark Ballard

Fewer Louisiana residents have High speed internet access More than anywhere else in the country – largely because of politics.

but the state On the right track to be absolutely close to connecting Before this contract expires – largely because of politics.

Working to expand broadband to include 400,000 homes and businesses without adequate internet It started last week and continues this week With $165 million spent, to date, of the $177 million allocated to Louisiana from the US bailout. Over the next 24 months, people at 88,000 addresses will be able to work remotely, access medical records, find markets, sell merchandise, do school errands and, yes, watch football and movies.

The big boost will come from the $1 billion or so Louisiana will receive from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes a total of $65 billion for broadband.

The $1.2 trillion IIJA package was rejected by all but two of Louisiana’s congressmen as “socialist” and “elitist.” However, contrary to claims that Boston would reap the most benefits, the funding formulas were formulated in such a way as to ensure Louisiana would receive twice as much as its residents would warrant.

Part of the reason is geography. Swamps, swamps, and forests isolate many of the population and make the necessary infrastructure expansion very costly.

It costs BellSouth Corp about $47,000 per phone to extend the lines to Mink, a settlement of about 15 families 100 miles south of Shreveport, thus providing global phone service in Louisiana. That was in February 2005.

Another reason is poverty. Nearly 1 in 5 residents in this state are officially classified as poor, and half of the state’s residents live in households below the average income levels in the country.

For years in the mid-to-late 20th century, New Orleans was known as the “nickel city” because of how long the state’s Democratic regulators required calls from public phone booths to charge 5 cents.

In 2011, the last time the federal government offered millions to connect Louisiana to the Internet, the money was withdrawn because Governor Bobby Jindal preferred private companies to scatter the money. “This grant called for a tough approach from the federal government that would have undermined and taken over private businesses,” Jindal said at the time.

On October 1, 2021, six of the eight members of the Louisiana delegation to Congress He wrote a letter saying the Infrastructure Act He raises taxes for a “socialist wish list for massive new spending.” The letter was signed by US Senator John N. Kennedy, US Vice President Garrett Graves, Clay Higgins, Julia Littlelow and Mike Johnson, all Republicans.

For broadband, we see a similar result. Unfortunately, the bill makes almost no tangible guarantees that it will help disadvantaged communities, meaning that the first priority will likely go to places like Boston suburbs, not communities like Bastrop, Baker and Borras. The message was reported.

“It would be just the opposite. A disproportionate share of those dollars will go. Go to rural communitiesDemocratic Governor John Bel Edwards said Wednesday. “We’ll get an allocation of US dollars representing our prorated share of those dollars based on the number of addresses that don’t have access to the Internet.”

The Federal Communications Commission determines which addresses can access high-speed Internet and which cannot. These maps will be completed in November, and these results will be included in a funding formula that also includes the cost of building the infrastructure.

The formula was derived during Congressional negotiations over the 2,700-plus-page legislation. US Republican Senator. Bill Cassidy, from Baton Rouge, was in the room. He and U.S. Representative Troy Carter, a Democrat from New Orleans, were the only two members of Louisiana delegation in Congress who voted for the measure, though voters of Higgins, Littlelow, and Johnson would receive the bulk of his Louisiana generosity.

“By being in the room, my goal was to make sure Louisiana was represented, and our needs met,” Cassidy said Wednesday. “Because of this bill, we expect to receive more than $1 billion over the next five years so that everyone in Louisiana has access to affordable, high-speed Internet.”

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