Vernon Parish included in second wave of GUMBO grants

Published 8:57 am Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Vernon Parish has been awarded $11 million to help bring affordable high speed internet to its underserved residents.

Vernon and LaSalle parishes were named the newest recipients in a second wave of allocations announced Wednesday to assist parishes with providing high speed internet access through the state’s broadband program, Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO).

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced this week at the inaugural Broadband Solutions Summit that over $35 million will be distributed to bring affordable high speed internet to nearly 15,000 locations within the next 18 to 24 months.

Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce executive director Logan Morris estimates the funds will provide fiber broadband internet access to more than 2,654 homes in Vernon Parish who do not currently have any internet access.

Additionally, Morris said he estimates another 2,000 homes will also gain access because of the investment.

The news was widely celebrated across Vernon Parish after local officials strived to be included in the second wave of awards.

In July, Edwards announced the first wave of GUMBO awards as a result of a $130 million investment from the American Rescue Plan, but Vernon Parish had been unable to apply because of a protest from Suddenlink representatives who claimed they were already providing access to reliable high speed internet in the Anacoco and Hornbeck communities.

In response, local leaders created the Vernon Parish Broadband Commission to lobby for inclusion in the GUMBO program and to prove that Suddenlink was unable to provide the services it claimed.

Their efforts were successful, and Morris said the group is excited for what the future holds for the parish.

“This is exciting news for all families, businesses, and students in Vernon Parish,” Morris said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Edwards said this latest round of allocations brings the state one step closer to fulfilling a goal set in 2019 to close Louisiana’s digital divide by 2029.

“I am so grateful for the progress we are making thanks to help from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Some of us take access to broadband for granted, but there are still many people who do not have a reliable or affordable connection, especially in the rural parts of our state. If we can connect those communities, we will improve health outcomes, grow our economy, increase access to educational opportunities, and enhance quality of life for so many people,” Edwards said.