On Wednesday, the Louisiana Senate passed House Bill 648 establishing a broadband grant program, reported KATC-TV. The bill, named the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO) program, sets aside $180 million in federal funds to provide broadband and internet access to 400,000 households statewide.
According to the bill’s author, Rep. Daryl Deshotel, “This legislation would lead to better access to healthcare, education, and quality jobs.” The grant money will be available for both public and private service providers planning to expand infrastructure in underserved communities.
In addition to the newly passed bill, last year, the Louisiana Legislature created the Louisiana Office of Broadband and Connectivity. The Legislature also began providing tax-exemptions on broadband equipment, and supplies reported KATC.
Veneeth Iyengar, the Office of Broadband and Connectivity director, noted that different state areas require different solutions to address the digital divide. Some areas lack access, others affordability, and some digital literacy. The GUMBO program will focus on accessibility, while other programs, like the Emergency Broadband Benefit, will hone in on affordability.
In conjunction with the newly passed bill, House Bill 465 will help with spectrum availability. It will allow the Office of Broadband and Connectivity to oversee the leasing of the state’s allotment of 4.9 GHz spectrum from the FCC to third parties.