About a fifth of households in Louisiana have no access to broadband Internet services, according to a recent report from Measure of America.
The group is a non-partisan nonprofit that works to research and analyze human development data. They focus on health, education and income.
“A Portrait of Louisiana 2020” showed that 22% of households don’t have Internet access, and 14% only have a cellular data plan.
Ease of access to the Internet, said Measure of America Director Kristen Lewis, is keeping people from jobs, telehealth and educational opportunities. Lack of access contributes to inequality.
COVID-19, she said, created millions of new challenges. Access to high-speed internet is basically a requirement now.
“Its’s now become apparent just how tremendously vulnerable people are without broadband internet,” Lewis said.
She argues that getting the state to treat it as a utility would then create a way for the Public Service Commission to treat it as essential services — like water, electricity and telephone — which would create impetus for companies to expand into little-served areas like northeastern Louisiana.
Getting broadband into rural communities, she said, isn’t something individuals can handle on their own, and the northeast Louisiana and rural areas throughout the state need to be the top priority. In some parishes, more than half the households have no access to the Internet.
She said she’s concerned about the households with only a cellular data plan because that means some kids could end up trying to do all their classwork on handheld devices.
Additionally, many jobs available require home internet access. People who are looking for work also need internet to find jobs and communicate with potential employers.
Residents, she said, can’t work on their own to get the necessary infrastructure built.
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