LUS Fiber Receives $3.1 Million Federal Grant to Expand into Rural Louisiana

The Lafayette, Louisiana-based municipal network, LUS Fiber, is expanding into rural southwest Louisiana with the help of a $3.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). 

The federal grant, announced in February, will cover 80 percent of the cost. LUS Fiber will match up to $700,000 in additional grant funding for the project. 

LUS Fiber, which offers speeds up to 10 Gigabit-per-second speeds, is partnering with Acadiana Planning Commission (APC) for the development and construction of the “certified all-fiber network.” Construction of the high-speed Internet backbone along the U.S. Highway 90 is set to begin this year and is expected to be completed within two years. 

New Routes, New Subscribers

Forty-seven miles of fiber infrastructure will connect Lafayette Parish, St. Martin Parish, and Iberia Parish. The project “could add between 650 and 1,400 new Internet customers to the telecom’s roughly 21,000 current accounts,” according to the Daily Advertiser’s coverage of the announcement in February

St. Martin Parish President Chest Cedars told the Daily Advertiser businesses that are central to the economic vitality of the region are just off Highway 90. 

“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 said. 

Elected leaders in seven different parishes across Acadiana wrote a letter to the state legislature and Louisiana State Governor John Bel Edwards, stressing the need to invest in more opportunities that offer “affordable, accessible, and reliable broadband.” 

Leaders specifically refer to the impact that LUS fiber has had on the Lafayette community. School Mint, an IT company from San Francisco moved its headquarters to Lafayette in the summer of 2020. The CEO, Bryan McDonald said that the company wouldn’t have even considered Lafayette if it weren’t for the consistency and capacity offered by LUS Fiber. 

The letter comes as the state legislature sits on HB 648, a $180 million plan to expand broadband infrastructure across the state. The bill currently sets broadband standards for the funding at 25 Megabits per second (Mbps)/3 Mbps.  

Asking for the funds to be used for infrastructure that offers 100 Mbps symmetrical service, leaders said, “Our towns deserve the investment of high-speed Internet that will bring real hope throughout Acadiana and Louisiana … The U.S. Senators have many national reasons for 100 Mbps symmetrical broadband, Acadiana has many more local reasons.”

LUS Fiber has been chipping away at expansion for years, growing from serving one community to several since 2005 when Lafayette voters approved the municipal FTTH network. It expanded to the towns of Youngsville and Broussard in 2018 and Carencro in 2019 all of which were in Lafayette Parish. This voyage into neighboring parishes marks the beginning of a new chapter for LUS Fiber, expansion and a growing presence as Louisiana’s only municipally-owned FTTH network.

For more on the history of the network, listen to Christopher speak with Terry Huval, former Director of Lafayette Utilities System, on episode 313 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast below.