Without government help, rural internet access remains elusive

Without government help, rural internet access remains elusive

Eight years ago, then-Gov. Bobby Jindal turned his back on $80 million in federal funding that would have provided high-speed internet for schools, businesses and homes in 21 rural Louisiana parishes. Gov. Jindal argued that private enterprise, not government, should take care of such things. But that didn’t happen, and today more than 1.1 million Louisianans still lack access to the kind of high-speed internet that most urbanites take for granted – and which has become essential to running many businesses. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports that some much-needed help might be on the way from the Trump administration:

Louisiana is a state where private companies didn’t extend phone lines to all rural areas until 2005, largely because of the cost effectiveness of erecting poles and running miles of lines for just a few customers. It’s the same reason why nearly a million homes and businesses get their power from cooperatives, created by the government, rather than shareholder-owned businesses like Entergy. 


Who to blame for ‘deaths of despair’?
In the New York Times last week, Nicholas Kristof wrote about the “deaths of despair” – from drugs, alcohol or preventable accidents – suffered by his childhood classmates in the working-class Oregon town where he grew up. Some on the right offered predictable responses, arguing that his classmates’ troubles came from personal weakness, not changing economic conditions. This week, Kristof responds, explaining why investment in “human capital” is critical to moving America forward: 

I’ve come to think that the biggest impediment to strengthening America isn’t a shortage of resources but this personal responsibility obsession. When we underinvest in our own human capital, when so many Americans are only marginally literate or numerate or suffer from ill health or dependencies, then our entire country suffers. If America wants to compete with China, we should worry less about intellectual property protections and more about investing in the well-being of young Americans.


The high cost of giving birth
Average out-of-pocket costs associated with having a child have grown by 50% since 2007, rising from $3,000 to $4,500 over that time – more than three times faster than the rate of inflation. Even people with “good” health insurance who shop carefully can leave the delivery room with sticker shock, as Nola.com | The Advocate’s Emily Woodruff explains

When New Orleans resident Sarah Stickney Murphy got pregnant in 2015, she crunched the numbers. First up: the actual cost of delivery, ringing in at $2,500 before insurance kicked in. … But the costs continued to add up in the first year. She paid around $800 for a doula. Her premium increased by 800% after she added her new child. And because her employer did not provide paid parental leave, she lost about 19% of her salary to take a few months off work after giving birth.


Starting over on Medicaid contracts?
The Louisiana Department of Health failed to follow state law or its own guidelines in awarding three lucrative Medicaid contracts worth a collective $21 billion. That’s according to the state’s chief procurement officer, who scrapped the contracts on Friday. The insurance companies that eventually win the managed-care contracts will oversee care for about 90% of the state’s Medicaid recipients. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte broke the story

(The) decision, which can be contested, won’t disrupt Medicaid health services to nearly one-third of Louisiana’s population. The Edwards administration signed emergency contracts to keep the state’s five current Medicaid managed care contractors in place this year because of the ongoing disputes about the contract awards and bid process.


Number of the Day
254,000 – Number of Louisianans who don’t have access to any internet service providers in their area (Source: Broadband Now via The Advocate)