More than 54,000 rural homes and businesses in North Louisiana will gain access to high-speed internet service thanks to $22 million in federal funding, according to Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.
The “Connect America” program of the Federal Communications Commission is helping fiber, wireless and satellite internet providers meet the need for broadband service in unserved or underserved areas of North Louisiana.
“This is good news for the people and business owners in my district,” Campbell said. “Fast and reliable internet service is critical to health care, education, commerce and public safety, as well as home entertainment.”
Campbell’s PSC District 5 comprises all or parts of 24 parishes, many of which are sparsely populated rural regions.
FCC records indicate that 54,580 homes and businesses in PSC District 5 are eligible for high-speed internet service funded by Connect America.
That is 52 percent of the statewide total of 104,523 locations declared “eligible” by the FCC for Connect America’s Phase II funding.
“North Louisiana has more unserved and underserved territory than any other part of the state, so that’s where the need is greatest,” Campbell said. “All of the 24 parishes in my district are seeing growth in broadband.”
Across North Louisiana, AT&T is responsible for 79 percent of the FCC-funded broadband expansion. CenturyLink has 18 percent and satellite provider ViaSat has 3 percent.
Campbell said the FCC has given AT&T and CenturyLink a deadline to finish their build-out of broadband service statewide by the end of 2020. The companies completed 40 percent by the end of 2017 and will be at the 60-percent mark by the end of this year.
California-based ViaSat participated in a separate auction of eligible Louisiana locations earlier this year. To receive funds ViaSat pledged to build to 40 percent of assigned homes and business within three years of becoming authorized to receive support, and to increase build-out by 20 percent in each subsequent year, to be complete by the end of the sixth year.
Connect America lets providers choose their delivery method for broadband so long as customers receive minimum download speeds of 10 megabytes per second and upload speeds of 1 mbps. AT&T will offer a “Fixed Wireless” service, CenturyLink is using primarily wireline technology, and ViaSat is serving customers by satellite.
The FCC also requires that service providers offer service at rates that are “reasonably comparable” to rates in urban areas. AT&T service will start at $60 per month.
AT&T and CenturyLink are on the agenda for the LPSC’s November 16 meeting in Baton Rouge to report on Connect America expansion statewide.
To determine if your home or business is newly served by one of these providers, consult AT&T by website at www.att.com/fixedwireless, call CenturyLink at 866-963-6665 or visit www.centurylink.com/ordernow. ViaSat said it will make more information available to the public at a later date.