WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today attended the groundbreaking ceremony of a broadband Internet expansion project in Washington Parish today. 

“In today's competitive marketplace consumers are not limited to the shops down the corner,” said Senator Landrieu.  “With the click of a mouse, they now have access to goods and services from Main Streets around the world.

“Only 1% of American businesses export, while 95% of the world’s customers are outside the United States.  To remain competitive and bring the global market within our reach, high-speed internet is a vital tool for small businesses in the most rural parts of the country.  I am pleased to see rural Louisiana on the forefront of receiving advanced technology and urge them to take advantage of the opportunity to tap into overseas markets.

“We are going to start to see rural small businesses expand, jobs being created and once economically distressed parts of Louisiana will become hubs of small business activity contributing to our economic recovery.”

Last month, Pride Network, Inc. received a grant of $17.7 million and a loan of $18.4 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The funding was made available from the USDA portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  The Recovery Act provides $2.5 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service (RUS) Broadband Initiatives Program and $4.7 billion to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. These programs help to expand broadband Internet access to underserved and unserved communities in an effort to boost local economies.  Pride Network, Inc. will use the financing to construct a fiber-to-the-premise infrastructure (FTTP), with a wireless-extension overlay.  The network will offer broadband service speeds between 20 and 100.  This project will benefit approximately will bring advanced broadband service to 25,243 people, 2,978 businesses, and 172 community institutions in three parishes, St. Helena, Washington, and Tangipahoa.  The company estimates that this project will create an estimated 1,316 jobs.

Senator Landrieu has secured more than $160 million in Recovery Act funding to increase broadband access to Louisiana’s rural communities.  To view a map of Louisiana funding, please click here

Senator Landrieu has been a long-time advocate for the expansion of broadband technology and co-sponsored the Broadband Data Improvement Act that became law in October 2008. The law improves the quality of federal and state data regarding the availability and quality of broadband services and promotes the deployment of affordable broadband services to all parts of the nation, particularly rural and underserved regions.