LAKE PROVIDENCE, La. (KTVE/KARD) – Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and several state lawmakers announced the GUMBO Program Monday, July 25, 2022, at the East Carroll Parish Library. Louisiana District 28 State Representative Daryl Deshotel was the primary author of HB 648, which Governor Edwards signed on June 29, 2021.

“It’s tremendous. It’s a bipartisan bill that we created because Louisiana has to be one. We have to be united if we’re going to compete in the digital economy, against other states and other countries,” Representative Deshotel said. “We have to all come together to close our digital divide and make sure that all of our residents have access to high-speed affordable internet access.”

The GUMBO Program stands for granting unserved municipalities broadband opportunities. According to Governor Edwards this is vital for people in Louisiana.

“The goal is to have true fiber high speed internet that will be affordable at every address in this state whether it’s business or a residential address,” Governor Edwards said. “It’s an exciting day. We have a lot of work to do. But I’m really excited to be here in Lake Providence for this first announcement.”

The state is investing in broadband and digital literacy. The East Carroll Parish Library is one of five libraries acting as a hub for a new digital literacy pilot program. Dominique Jones is a Lake Providence native. She works at the East Carroll Parish Library and the Library Director Krishanda Harrison Sanders promoted her to digital navigator. The state planned to award each library $20,000 for the digital literacy program.

“It feels kind of great. I get to do something I’ve been doing all my life,” Jones said. “Helping people and to get them more digitally prone to computers, tablets and even your ever day smartphone.”

According to Governor Edwards, so far, 50 parishes qualified for the GUMBO program. For more information visit the Connect Louisiana website.

“Make sure that you’re working with your parishes because this is done in collaboration with all the municipalities in the parishes, to see which geographic area, will be serviced by these first grants,” Governor Edwards said. “So not the entire parish is going to get it that’s why we have additional funding coming forward.”

State legislators are working to include the 14 other parishes in the broadband expansion. The state’s goal is to complete the project by 2029. According to Governor Edwards, 900 Lake Providence addresses should have high speed internet in about 15 months. The total GUMBO program investment is about 225 million dollars.

District 2 East Carroll Parish Police Juror Kofi Darden attended the announcement. According to Darden, during the COVID-19 pandemic, East Carrol Parish children struggled with digital connectivity.

“I am super excited to see this come into fruition. Those children that were on virtually,” Police Juror Darden said. “So, to have this happen in East Carroll Parish is an absolute plus.”

She thanked everyone who advocated for this to happen in East Carroll Parish, and “God Bless.”  

Governor Edwards reminded residents that they can apply for a $30 internet voucher through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) if they meet the qualifications. More information is available about the Affordable Connectivity Program on the FCC website. According to Governor Edwards, Louisiana is investing 10 million dollars into the community college program because the state needs skilled labor to make the broadband expansion happen. To learn more about the announcement head over to the Office of Governor John Bel Edwards official website.