LUS Fiber seeks $ 19 million grant to expand Internet in rural Acadiana

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LUS Fiber is making a $ 31 million offer to extend its high-speed fiber-optic Internet service to more than 20,000 potential customers across Acadiana through the state’s GUMBO program.

LUS Fiber is the only publicly owned Internet service provider in the state, andits expansion plan will build on $ 19 million from the GUMBO program, which aims to expand high-speed Internet access to nearly 450,000 Louisianans in underserved communities using $ 180 million in federal COVID relief funds -19.

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The program received $ 440 million in funding requests from internet companies across the state last year, far more than it can answer, and plans to allocate funds to projects in late March or early April.

LUS Fiber’s project will cover six parishes in Acadiana, excluding Lafayette, and add 200 miles of new fiber-optic infrastructure to reach 16,435 homes and 3,591 businesses with internet speeds up to 10 Gbps and residential plans starting at $ 58 per month for 60 Mbps.

The project is made up of seven parts:

  • Vermilion Parish | $ 11.1 million | 6,581 households & 1,592 businesses
  • Acadian Parish | $ 8.2 million | 4,448 housing units & 962 businesses
  • Parish Iberia | $ 1.3 million | 659 housing units & 183 businesses
  • Parish of Saint-Martin | $ 6.0 million | 2,614 housing units & 295 businesses
  • Saint-Landry Parish | $ 1.5 million | 185 housing units & 24 businesses
  • Evangeline Parish | $ 268,000 | 165 housing units & 8 businesses
  • Saint-Landry Economic Corridor | $ 2.3 million | 1,783 housing units and 527 businesses

The project is poised to become a lifeline for Acadiana’s myriad of small towns with shrinking populations as businesses and residents remain suffocated by needlessly slow internet speeds.

A report from the Acadiana Planning Commission last year found that 29% of businesses and a third of households in the Eight Parish area did not have access to reliable internet with download and download speeds of based.

LUS Fiber’s expansion plan has been widely supported by leaders of the rural parishes surrounding Lafayette who have championed the expansion of high-speed Internet as a way to save small towns from fading.

These leaders are setting up $ 7 million in local matching funds to help secure the state’s $ 19 million GUMBO program project demand, as well as $ 5 million in installation services by LUS Fiber.

“This is truly an incredible opportunity for LUS Fiber to put in place the necessary infrastructure to extend broadband services to areas of Acadiana that are underserved,” said Ryan Meche, Director of LUS Fiber.

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“It has been an honor for our entire LUS Fiber team to work with the leaders of each community to potentially receive this GUMBO funding. We are delighted to be working closely with each parish administration as we move forward in providing broadband services in these areas, ”added Meche.

Ryan Meche, longtime LUS Fiber engineer, will take charge of municipal telecommunications, President-Mayor Josh Guillory announced on Monday, March 29, 2021.

“In today’s world, broadband is a requirement for growing and prosperous communities and we commend the leaders of these regions for their efforts to provide their residents and businesses with equitable access and opportunity. “

The exact locations of LUS Fiber’s proposed expansion are generally considered trade secrets and have not been disclosed in connection with its GUMBO grant applications. Telecom has already devoted more than 300 engineering hours to the project and expects to be ready to begin work as soon as funding is granted.

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The project’s extended customer base could become a major source of revenue for the city-owned ISP, particularly with funding from GUMBO to offset the high cost of fiber-optic infrastructure. LUS Fiber currently provides Internet to approximately 25,000 customers, primarily in the parish of Lafayette.

“It puts us in the dark so much easier to use and develop quickly,” Meche said.

“It takes us out of a lot of hurdles to do what we do best, which is to provide community broadband,” he added.

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