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LUS Fiber receives EDA grant to expand fiberoptic lines along US90 corridor

LUS Fiber has received a $3.1 million grant to expand fiber optic services along the US 90 corridor.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration grant will fund the expansion of LUS Fiber’s certified all-fiber network through additional portions of Lafayette Parish, St. Martin Parish, and Iberia Parish. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2021 and is expected to be completed within two years.

“In a post-COVID economy, the challenge to bring reliable broadband to Acadiana’s rural communities has become as important as the delivery of other basic utilities. The capacity to upload, download and live stream, sometimes simultaneously while others in the office or home are doing the same thing has strong implications on Acadiana’s rural economic survival. Decisions that we make today about broadband expansion will determine which of Acadiana’s towns will survive in the future. Those left behind in broadband delivery will be just that – left behind.” Monique Boulet, CEO of the Acadiana Planning Commission.

In partnership with APC, LUS Fiber applied for and was awarded the Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) grant from the EDA, enabled by the CARES Act.

The EDA plays a critical role in facilitating regional economic development in communities across the nation, LUS Fiber says. Grants under these programs are designed to leverage existing local assets and support the implementation of economic development strategies that advance innovation and creative approaches to accelerate economic prosperity and long term, sustainable growth in distressed communities.

These programs are only available to public or non-profit entities, which makes LUS Fiber an ideal partner for APC in this groundbreaking and forward-thinking endeavor.

At the press conference, the Economic Development Administration which is providing the grant says that the project will help support more than 600 businesses along the corridor. The exact specifics on a route was not provided.

The Acadiana Planning Commission says the work for the grant involved several parish including St. Martin and Iberia Parish. The planning commission is asking for help with broadband providers to help create a backbone for fiber optics.

They say the work would be able to start after a notice to proceed has been given. They expect to begin the expansion as early as this summer.

Iberia Parish President Larry Richard says that the parish catered to oil and gas for years, but businesses are now working from home and shifting in direction. Richard says that businesses along Hwy 90 will be more competitive and have better communications.

"It's a critical start and we look for this to go many many years into the future," Richard said.

The grant will be focused on fiber to businesses and not fiber to the home.

St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars says that along Hwy 90, there are a large number of businesses that he thinks are critical to the parish and Acadiana economy. He hopes that this is a critical step in the right direction after the critical hit to the economy in 2020 and the downturn of the oil and gas industry.

Fiber will also be expanding into The City of Scott in Lafayette and the UL Lafayette Research Center in Iberia Parish.

LUS Fiber says that they are ready for this expansion of services to all those who are under-served in the area.

Senators Cassidy and Kennedy and Congressman Clay Higgins who provided comment via video applauded the expansion of broadband services in Acadiana. All stated that the expansion will support the continued growth in the area.

Lafayette Mayor President Josh Guillory thanked the Acadiana Planning Commission and other Parish Presidents for their work in making the project possible.

"It is a great day for LUS Fiber, Lafayette Parish, and Acaidana," Guillory said.

The announcement was made during a press conference on Thursday.

Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, Iberia Parish President Larry Richard, St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars, City of Scott Mayor Jan-Scott Richard, Acadiana Planning Commission CEO Monique Boulet, and other officials were in attendance.

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