A total of 420 sites in West Baton Rouge Parish will gain access to high-speed broadband Internet after an auction by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
An estimated 332,000 rural Louisiana residents will get broadband service through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction, according to the FCC.
Space Exploration Technology Corp. bid on 405 sites for $666,464.
In Louisiana, the auction allocated $342,207,315 in support to expand broadband to 175,692 unserved homes and businesses over the next 10 years.
“Broadband connectivity is one of the major issues facing rural Louisiana and I have made working with our federal partners to enhance the availability of broadband service one of my top priorities,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “This allocation will go a long way in increasing the connectivity of hundreds of thousands of Louisianans, which will improve their ability to participate and compete in an ever-growing digital world.”
Nearly all locations in Louisiana eligible for the auction will be receiving access to broadband with speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps, with 82 percent getting gigabite-speed broadband.
“Louisianians without broadband access deserve the same educational and work opportunities that Americans who have high-speed internet already enjoy,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., in a prepared statement.
Kennedy is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which has jurisdiction over the FCC.
“The pandemic has made it more urgent than ever to bridge the digital divide in underserved rural areas — telehealth, telework and online classes demand broadband expansion,” Kennedy said.
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a $20.4 billion fund to close the digital divide by funding high-speed broadband network deployment in underserved rural areas.
The FCC set aside $16 billion for Phase I of the auction; $9.2 billion was allocated.
The remaining $6.8 billion will roll over into the future Phase II auction, which will have a budget of $11.2 billion to target those areas that did not receive funding in the first phase as well as partially-served areas.
“This historic auction is great news for the residents of so many rural Louisiana communities, who will get access to high-quality broadband service in areas that for too long have been on the wrong side of the digital divide,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.
“We structured this innovative and groundbreaking auction to prioritize bids for high-speed, low-latency services to deliver the best results for rural Americans, and the results show that this strategy worked.
“This auction was the commission’s single largest step ever taken toward delivering digital opportunity to every American and is another key success in our ongoing commitment to universal service.”