LUS Fiber wins $3 million grant to build high-speed internet backbone on US Hwy 90
Lafayette's municipal internet provider LUS Fiber won a $3.1 million federal grant to build a high-speed internet backbone along U.S. Highway 90 in the next two years.
The grant was announced Thursday by the federal Economic Development Administration and will fund 80% of the cost to build 47 miles of fiber optic internet infrastructure along Highway 90 between Lafayette and Iberia parishes.
“This will help growing communities in Acadiana to deploy high speed fiber optic internet service to support remote working, telehealth and distance learning,” EDA Regional Director Jorge Ayala said Thursday.
“This investment is expected to support a total of over 650 businesses along the U.S. Highway 90 corridor, including the Iberia Parish Emergency Operations Center, the Acadiana Regional Airport, a behavioral health clinic in New Iberia and four industrial parks. It's also expected to spur $26 million in private investment.”
The new high-speed internet backbone will run between Lafayette and Iberia Parish, though officials would not disclose exactly where the fiber optics lines will be run Thursday because of industry competition. LUS Fiber already serves customers outside the city of Lafayette in Carencro, Youngsville and Broussard.
More:LUS Fiber expands to Carencro as part of push to reach throughout Lafayette Parish
LUS Fiber will put up $700,000 to match the grant funding for the project, which could add between 650 and 1,400 new internet customers to the telecom’s roughly 21,000 current accounts.
LUS Fiber Chief Communications Engineer Teles Fremin said Thursday that those funds will be in addition to the roughly $2 million Fiber spends each year on building infrastructure to connect new customers.
More:LUS Fiber coming to Broussard and Youngsville in early 2018
The new fiber internet backbone will connect some of the biggest employers in the Acadiana region and the Acadiana Regional Airport in Iberia Parish to high-speed internet, as well as the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Primate Research Center, which was instrumental in the development of the current COVID-19 vaccines.
“Researchers in New Iberia were integral in the global effort that will ultimately protect lives, restore communities, bolster the economy and permit what we all hope is a return to what life was like before the pandemic,” UL President Joseph Savoie said.
“The road to the future ran through the New Iberia Research Center, and providing it with access to broadband network, as this funding does, will only enhance the significant work being done in collaboration with bio-pharmaceutical companies and other industry partners.”
St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars said the project will include a connection to the SMEDA Industrial Park, which houses some of the parish's largest businesses.
“On Highway 90, we have a very large number of businesses that are critical to the economic survival of this region,” Cedars said. “When it was agreed that Fiber would take a little left turn and hit our SMEDA Industrial Park it was even a greater win for St. Martin Parish because six of our top 10 taxpayers in our parish are housed in that particular industrial center.”
Cedars also praised the Acadiana Planning Commission and Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory for organizing the grant and setting up Fiber to expand its high-speed internet service to such a vital commercial corridor for the region.
APC CEO Monique Boulet said the project has the potential to spur greater competition among internet providers along the new fiber backbone, which will include the necessary infrastructure to expand to nearby residential areas as well.
Boulet said the project is key to the region’s future, especially for more rural towns that may get left behind as businesses use the internet more and more.
“We have the best and the worst. The service you get with LUS Fiber inside Lafayette is one of the best in the country. I don't have actual measurements, but you have up to 10 gigs of service,” she said.
“We have the best, and then Ville Platte is ranked fifth in the country as far as being the worst. Some of their businesses cannot run credit card transactions.They have to use their phones to just transact every day,” she added.
The APC is currently conducting a survey of delivered internet speeds across the region to determine how widespread the area’s problem with slow internet speeds is, Boulet said, in hopes of doing more to address the problems in the future.
How slow is your internet?:Take the Acadiana Planning Commission's internet speed survey
“If we don't address this regionwide, we are going to see some of our key towns disappear, and they are critical to this region,” Boulet said.
“It's not okay to let them sit with substandard service. We don't necessarily have the path to figure this out completely, but we really want to engage all providers, we want to support all providers and we really want a regional fiber backbone.”
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