USDA offering high-speed internet program in 3 rural parishes

Updated: Jan. 28, 2020 at 5:31 PM CST
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IBERVILLE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - Nestled in north Iberville Parish is the small town of Rosedale.

It’s your typical small town in Louisiana. Most people know each other, it doesn’t take long to drive through it, and most households there don’t have high speed internet access.

One of those is the Jones’ home. Mckenly Jones is an 11th grade student at Iberville STEM Academy just outside Rosedale.

“My other classmates always tell me, ‘I don’t know how you do it Mckenly,’” Jones said.

Since she does not have access at home, she either has to rely on the unreliable internet on her phone or go to the library, which is not always open. If all else fails, she says she’ll skip lunch to get online at school.

“I usually do it sometime during the day,” she said. “Like lunchtime or anything like that. Any free time I have to be like, oh, I have to hurry up and do this just so I’m able to get it done.”

Sometimes even that is not possible. School administrators say the internet in the building goes down from time to time.

“It basically shuts you down,” said Jonah Njenga, one of the teachers at ISA.

Even when it’s up, the students who were not able to do their homework the previous night can often slow down the class.

“The problem is it slows you down because you want to be sure that every kid is able to do that,” Njenga said. “You don’t want to leave behind a child that was not able to access the internet, so basically you give them time to do it in school.”

Njenga is from Kenya. He says he was shocked to find out there are parts of the United States that do not have web access.

“Sometimes we see less than what was expected,” he said. “At this time, we should not really be talking about areas without internet in the US.”

Fortunately, help is on the way.

The USDA has invested $15.5 million in improving high-speed broadband internet access for rural households in three Louisiana parishes.

USDA Rural Development Louisiana State Director Roy Holleman announced a project that will create or improve e-connectivity for 2,609 rural households, 12 pre-subscribed businesses, and 16 pre-subscribed farms in Iberville, Pointe Coupee, and St. Landry parishes.

The USDA announced a $15.5 million grant to expand rural broadband access to areas across...
The USDA announced a $15.5 million grant to expand rural broadband access to areas across Iberville, Pointe Coupee, and St. Landry Parishes. The plan will allow those who do not have access to internet to receive high speed internet for the first time.(WAFB)

Star Telephone Company Inc., will deploy 154 miles of optical fiber and 95 miles of drop optical fiber cable to the locations. The project will cover 136 square miles in the three parishes.

Included is Jones and ISA.

"I was very happy,” Jones said. “I was because, even my classmates were like, ‘You can get internet now.’ They were excited for me because they know how much of a struggle it is sometimes not having the right resources.”

Construction on the new high speed internet lines is expected to start in summer of 2020. The first customers are expected to be brought online by fall.

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