WASHINGTON – Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today attended the groundbreaking ceremony of a broadband Internet expansion project in Morehouse Parish along with Clarence Hawkins, USDA Rural Development State Director and Foster Campbell of the Louisiana Public Service Commission.  Once completed, the “Last Mile” project will bring broadband Internet access to homes and businesses in the towns of Bonita and Collinston. 

“The expansion of broadband Internet access to rural communities is an ongoing project in Louisiana and the rest of the country,” said Senator Landrieu.  “With this strengthened technology infrastructure, Louisiana businesses will be able to reach new customer bases and homes and schools will be connected to libraries, hospitals and outside resources like never before.  Northeast Telephone Company has been working to improve technology in north Louisiana and these broadband improvements take it one step further.  The Last Mile project will become an avenue for entrepreneurs in Northeast Louisiana to build a business from their front porch and grow the economic landscape of Louisiana.”

“We are very excited to be able to provide high quality high speed Internet and a state of the art IPTV network that will provide over 220 channels to the rural areas of Morehouse Parish over a new fiber optic network,” said Mike George, President and General Manager of Northeast Louisiana Telephone Company.  “This has the potential of being a real economic boost to the communities of Collinston and Bonita and surrounding areas.  We are also very pleased that Senator Landrieu is able to be here to help us celebrate our groundbreaking.”

In January, Northeast Telephone Company received more than $12 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.  The funds awarded to the Northeast Louisiana Telephone Company include a $4,360,000 grant and an $8,120,000 loan.  This will be an active Ethernet system with symmetrical speeds in excess of 20 megabits per second.  Equipment will consist of a large capacity router, a softswitch for voice, an IPTV headed for video and all associated electronics, with buried fiber to implement the project.

 Founded in 1947, Northeast Telephone Company, Inc. is a local family-owned, independent telecommunications company headquartered in Collinston, Louisiana (Morehouse Parish).  They provide local phone service for residential/business customers in Collinston, Bonita, and Jones.  The company has over 1,000 customers and also offers long distance, cable TV, and Internet services. 

This is not the first time that Northeast Telephone Company received funds to expand phone service in Morehouse Parish.  In 1955, the company applied for and received loan funding from the Rural Electrification Administration (predecessor to the Rural Utilities Service that awarded this ARRA grant).  These funds were used to provide dial service to all the subscribers in Bonita, Jones, and Collinston.  

In 1994, the company also received a $6 million loan from the Rural Utilities Service to replace the old telephone switch with a Digital Central Office.  This loan also funded a fiber optic connection between Collinston and Bonita.