Finding providers to deliver broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of Bossier Parish is an ongoing process, Parish Administrator Bill Altimus told police jury members Wednesday.
“We’re working a lot of angles, getting many proposals from companies wanting support to obtain GUMBO funds,” Altimus said. “Many proposals are around the lake (Cypress); there seems to be a lot of interest in that area.”
GUMBO (Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities) program, offers $180 million in federal funds to help provide broadband and internet access to households statewide. The program applies to private providers with the support of local governments, like the Bossier Parish Police Jury.
“These companies want our support in their GUMBO applications. That’s why we want to be thorough in vetting those who want our support,” Altimus said.
Some changes in the GUMBO program requirements will prove to be critical to companies hoping to qualify, he told the jury. One major change is in the required transmission speed. Another would require interested companies to participate in workforce development for Louisiana residents.
Altimus said he and members of the police jury’s broadband study committee had been in discussions with a consulting group that would help identify areas that qualify as unserved or underserved. That group would also provide the expertise to vet individual company proposals to determine the best fits for those areas.
A proposal from the consulting group could be presented for the jury’s consideration within 60 to 90 days, he said.
Broadband study committee chairman Philip Rodgers agreed that a firm with knowledge about the industry and the programs available to potential providers would be extremely helpful.
“We need someone to guide us,” Rodgers said. “Consultants offer a service. We need to look at this and move forward. We want to spend the money to get into this, but we don’t want to waste money.”
Altimus said plenty of money is available for the broadband plan and more will be coming in the future.
“This is a long-term play,” he said. “You will be talking about this two years from now.”
Also during Wednesday’s meeting, jury members:
- Authorized the advertising for bids for annual supplies and materials for the Bossier Parish Highway Department, bids to be received Thursday, December 2, 2021, at 2:00 p.m.
- Scheduled a public hearing on December 1 to consider adoption of the 2022 Bossier Parish Police Jury budget.
- Scheduled a public hearing on November 17 to consider adoption of an ordinance amending Chapter 94, “Commercial Vehicle Enforcement”, Section 94-10(B)(8), of the Bossier Parish Code of Ordinances, to add subsection (K) Establishing Additional BPPJCVEU Permit Conditions and Fees.