Last week during an online forum, former FCC chairman Ajit Pai advised the state of Louisiana to partner with the FCC to maximize funding to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the state. The Ouachita Citizen reported that Louisiana already received $342.2 million in 2020, through the commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund but could qualify for more.
The Citizen reported the second phase of the FCC’s fund has a budget of up to $11.2 billion and will focus on “filling in partially served areas,” according to Pai. Louisiana could use state dollars to match funds to create “a powerful combination to help connect unserved or underserved folks in the Pelican State,” he added.
Louisiana lawmakers approved legislation last year to promote broadband connectivity across the state. A “dig once” policy is in effect, and lawmakers approved legislation directing electricity co-ops to allow the use of their infrastructure for broadband installation.
According to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, the state will spend some of the $3 billion it received in federal stimulus funding on broadband infrastructure. If local governments make investments as well, another $2 billion could be added to the overall total.
Pai added the importance of collaboration, especially when deciding where to make investments based on needs. “It’s important for Louisiana and the agency to work closely together to make sure that the dollars you’re about to get are stretched as far as they possibly can be,” he said.