ST. FRANCISVILLE — West Feliciana Parish’s new information technology director said one of his highest priorities is to explore high-speed Internet options for the parish.
Tim Hebert, who said he considers himself a general technologist, told the Parish Council on Monday that he is seeking funding for high-speed Internet access to all areas of the parish.
“Traditionally, it’s cost-prohibitive for companies to go the last mile or make the final link,” said Hebert, who has been on the job for less than a month. “Traditionally, it’s the most expensive.”
Hebert made a brief presentation about access to Internet in the parish. There are some areas, like St. Francisville, that have relatively concentrated access and there are pockets in the rural areas where there is no high-speed access. That is a problem for students, businesses and the growing number of people in the workforce who telecommute to work.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers grants to build rural high-speed infrastructure, and AT&T via the Federal Communications Commission will give grants worth $28 million each year over the next six years to rural areas in Louisiana.
Hebert said there are different types of Internet infrastructure that can be developed, such as wired, which includes cable and fiber optic, or wireless, which includes cellular wireless, satellite wireless and mesh networks.
Cellular wireless would be his first choice, although its reliability is somewhat unpredictable. Mesh networks are mini-communities that share the cost and build their own self-contained network.
“I think the best option is to leverage a public-private partnership for funding,” Hebert told the council. He mentioned companies like SpaceX, Google, Verizon and AT&T/Direct TV as potential partners.
“We can do this together if it’s a high priority,” Hebert said.
The council also appointed two new members to the Port Commission: Ambrose Sims and Gerald W. Tanner. They replace Z. David DeLoach and Greg Ferris.
It also set an Oct. 26 public hearing on a possible contract between the parish and the Hospital Service District to construct a wellness center and a recreation center.