Rural parts of La. anticipate better high-speed internet access from Biden’s infrastructure bill

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 5:03 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Besides, roads and bridges, another part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill will focus on providing high-speed internet services across the country, especially for rural areas, which could have a major impact on some of the parishes in the state.

The busiest restaurant in Clinton, Louisiana is Johnny B’s Café, their specialty is hamburgers, but one thing that is not on the menu is internet service.

“A while back we had internet, and we tried to keep it to run our ATM and stuff like that. It would go down at times, and be down for weeks at a time, and we couldn’t get it back,” says John Beauchamp, who is one of the managers.

That’s why Beauchamp got rid of the internet and instead he has his ATM and credit card machine hooked up to a cellphone service to keep his business running.

Frustrated, leaders in East Feliciana Parish are taking a closer look at their internet services. Jody Moreaux, East Feliciana Parish manager, explains on a state map showing the internet coverage,

“Of course the darker blue, the better the coverage. So, you see here, you have the Mississippi State line, you have the East Baton Rouge Parish line and you have this big void of dark coloring which is East Feliciana Parish.”

Moreaux explains that there is only about 19% of high-speed internet coverage in the parish. Some of their towns, like Ethel, do have not have any coverage.

“We are very underserved in this aspect, we are very rural. We are seeing more development coming in a certain quarter of our parish that kind of border the EBR line, the East Baton Rouge Parish, but overall we are very underserved in this capacity for internet,” adds Moreaux.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was a wake-up call because students did not have access to do their homework online, nor could employees properly work at home.

“Internet is becoming more and more one of your basis for your infrastructure in your parish or in your municipality. You have gas, you have water, you have sewer, you have electricity; internet is becoming one of those basis right now for sustainability,” says Moreaux.

With a parish of only 21,000 people, it may be hard to keep internet costs down, but they’re hoping to work through that. East Feliciana officials say they are developing their internet plans right now. So, once that federal money comes in they’ll be ready to provide better internet coverage for the parish.

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