GUMBO grant helps unserved area get broadband for the first time
Left to right:
Veneeth Iyengar (Executive Director, ConnectLA), Archie Chaisson (Lafourche Parish President), Michelle Eroche (Lafourche resident), Josh Descant (CEO, REV), Eddie Callais (Business Sales Manager, REV), Janet Britton (General Counsel & EVP of Human Resources, REV), Scott Small (EVP of Corporate Development, REV) and Peter Louviere (CFO, REV)
By Elise Saloom
Some Louisiana communities have never had high-speed, affordable internet access, but thanks to REV Business and the GUMBO grant program, these areas are finally getting connected.
The Eroche family hasn't had access to internet or cable since building their Thibodaux home in 1996. Although internet was available about 1,000 feet north and a mile south, the family lived in an unserved gap.
During both the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida, Michelle Eroche and her husband Bill faced what they feared would be an insurmountable internet challenge.
"My husband has a law firm in Houma, and the building the law firm was located in was destroyed [in Hurricane Ida]," she said. "We moved the office to our house, which was very difficult because we had no internet."
For five months of working from home, the Eroches were left with only their cell phone hotspots for internet.
"It was extremely challenging and frustrating as hard-wired internet has never been an option for us," she said. "Having to use our cell phone hotspot was spotty at best. We were lucky to pick up one bar."
That is when REV stepped in. The company was established in 2020 as a combination of former telecommunications companies RTC, EATEL and Vision Communications. With 2,790 miles of fiber and more than 60,000 customers, REV serves multiple parishes in south Louisiana including parts of Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. James, St. John the Baptist, Ascension, Livingston and East Baton Rouge.
During his time at REV, COO Harris Miller witnessed how high-speed internet has the power to change the lives of Louisianians. In the summer of 2022, Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson emailed the Eroches that REV was awarded a GUMBO grant and would begin installing fiber in their area.
Near the beginning of January 2023, the family's home received high speed, fiber-based internet. After never having internet, the Eroches now have the most advanced broadband network available.
"It's life-changing," Michelle Eroche said. "There are so many things that people take for granted, and when you don't have the ability to participate in that technology, it's debilitating. We are extremely happy with REV and grateful for the GUMBO grant program."
REV is just one of the many companies throughout the state taking the initiative to connect unserved communities with high-speed internet. The company's project in Lafourche Parish is complete, and soon many other projects throughout the state will bring drastic internet improvements to families like the Eroches.
"The telecom industry continues to evolve as more of our everyday lives involve using the internet for various aspects of education, commerce and entertainment," Miller said. "Public-private partnerships will help open the doors to bring these technologies to rural areas."