Rural areas of parish lack broadband access
With the school year cut short on March 16 by the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers have become dependent on internet access to insure that the needed subject matter is still covered. Without it, students could find themselves at a disadvantage when they transition to the next grade.
At the June 16 parish council committee meetings, President Chester Cedars said he was surprised to learn how many St. Martin Parish students who live in rural areas do not have high-speed internet access at home.
On Monday he met with other parish presidents and representatives from the Acadiana Planning Commission to develop strategies to ensure that more comprehensive access will be provided.
“We talked about the importance of broadband, including for educational purposes, and agreed that we need to get the providers more interested. Next we are going to set up a meeting with some of them to get that started.”
In some areas, such as Cypress Island, optical cable was laid along the road years ago, but it passes by homes in sparsely-populated areas with no access being made available. “That seems ridiculous,” Cedars commented.
The council discussed measures that will be addressed at the July 7 meeting to try to ensure that federal COVID Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds will be made available to wild crawfish producers.
As currently interpreted, only pond crawfish producers will qualify for CARES Act financial aid, because only they are considered “agricultural” workers. However, as pointed out by councilman Byron Fuselier, the wild-catch industry has been hit harder than pond producers by the crisis, due to the fact that their season started later.
“The ponds were nearly finished for the season when the COVID pandemic broke,” he said.
The closure of restaurants and other high-volume markets for the catch has caused a steep decline in prices for the 1,800 to 2,000 wild crawfishermen who work in the Atchafalaya Basin. Where they were getting about $3 per pound before COVID, the price dropped to well below $1 by the end of their season.
It was also pointed out that wild crawfish producers are an integral part of the pond crawfish industry, as they are needed to provide the seed stock for ponds.