Acadiana’s getting a $30 million high-speed internet grant. What's in it?

Andrew Capps
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Acadiana is getting $30 million to build high-speed internet in 11 rural towns, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy announced Thursday, and the impact could be huge for the three parishes involved. 

The Acadiana Planning Commission, in conjunction with LUS Fiber and Allen’s Communications, applied for the $30 million grant in August as part of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s $288 million Broadband Infrastructure Program.

Kennedy announced Thursday that Acadiana’s $29.9 million request will be fully funded, meaning the region will get more than 10% of the total Broadband Infrastructure Program’s national budget, a major achievement for the APC, LUS Fiber and Allen’s Communications, as well as the parishes and towns included in the grant. 

"I am impressed and proud of what the APC team was able to accomplish. The application was extraordinarily competitive and complex. We will change the trajectory of our rural communities for generations to come with this grant," APC CEO Monique Boulet said Thursday.

Monique Boulet, who represented the Acadiana Planning Commission during a St. Landry Parish Council Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday night, explains the APC's plans for developing a regional planning strategy to prevent flooding in an eight-parish area that includes St. Landry. The council also discussed perhaps consolidating the 13 drainage districts in St. Landry to enhance funding for parish wide flooding.

Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to make an announcement about federal internet infrastructure investment while in Acadiana on Friday, but local officials have been tight-lipped about whether her trip is related to the APC’s grant application. 

A study by the commission in 2021 found that bad internet infrastructure has strangled the economies of Acadiana’s small town as nearly 29% of businesses and a third of households in the seven-parish region lack access to reliable internet with basic speeds.

Broadband report:Bad internet is strangling rural Acadiana as millions available for upgrades

LUS Fiber and Allen’s Communications will split the $30 million grant, with LUS Fiber taking about $21 million to fiber internet to the home in towns in Acadia and Evangeline parishes, while Allen’s Communications will get around $9 million to do the same in parts of St. Landry Parish. 

LUS Fiber Director Ryan Meche, who was appointed to the city-owned telecom’s top job by Mayor-President Josh Guillory less than a year ago, said the expansion will help bring important internet opportunities to underserved rural parts of Acadiana. 

“We’re proud to be making a difference in our neighboring communities for residents and businesses, providing access to high-quality, high-speed fiber broadband for communication, online learning, telehealth, managing business in a digital economy, and more – which all works together to increase the strength and stability of our markets and economies,” he said. 

LUS FIber Director Ryan Meche, P.E.

The grant will fund the majority of the $35 million project, with local contributions in the form of installation services from LUS Fiber and Allen Communications making up the difference.

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A Daily Advertiser analysis of the census blocks included in the project found that more than 54,000 people spread across 126,000 acres between 11 towns in rural Acadiana will have access to high-speed fiber internet once the project is complete, which could be within a year depending on federal procedures. 

The majority of those residents, about 31,400, are in the southern part of St. Landry Parish.

Another 15,500 soon-to-be-covered residents are in Evangeline Parish, while about 7,300 more live in Acadia Parish.

A searchable map of areas that will get high-speed fiber internet access through the grant is available below. Story continues below.

The covered towns include:

  • Arnaudville
  • Basile
  • Cankton
  • Chataignier
  • Church Point
  • Eunice
  • Grand Coteau
  • Mamou
  • Pine Prairie
  • Sunset
  • Ville Platte

LUS Fiber will install more than a million feet of fiber-optic lines thanks to the grant funds, Meche said, which would add over 12,000 homes and 1,500 businesses to its network, vastly expanding its customer base. 

LUS Fiber has already expanded outside the city of Lafayette and the Lafayette Parish limits to build a high-speed fiber internet backbone along U.S. Highway 90 into New Iberia with $3 million in federal funds. 

Internet grants:LUS Fiber makes $31-million bid to expand high-speed internet to rural Acadiana

In January, LUS Fiber made a bid for $19 million from Louisiana’s GUMBO program to reach another 20,000 potential customers in rural parts of Acadiana that have been strangled by slow internet speeds. The state is expected to announce awards for that program in March.

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