MANSFIELD, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The city of Mansfield is getting ready to build its own $5 million fiber-based broadband network that will give every household and business in the city access to high-speed internet.

It will be the first true public-private partnership broadband network in the state, according to Louisiana Connected, the Black-owned tech company working with the city to build the fiberoptic system.

The Mansfield City Council voted unanimously last week to approve the partnership in a deal that both the outgoing and incoming mayors say will address the lack of access to broadband internet highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic really brought to light many of the shortcomings we face in our daily lives and reliable Internet was one of them,” said outgoing Mayor John Mayweather, Sr. “Government offices, residents, and especially students found it difficult to access dependable Internet service. A good many students had a hard time logging onto their home computers to keep up with their assignments. Hopefully, what we are attempting to do now with this broadband project will help to resolve this issue.”

Mayor-Elect Thomas Jones, who was a De Soto Parish Police Juror until he defeated Mayweather in last month’s runoff, says the city started looking into building its own system during the COVID-19 pandemic when the school district struggled with remote learning and connectivity issues.

“It became apparent to us that we have to take matters into our own hands if we want to bridge the digital divide in our community,” said Mansfield Mayor-Elect Thomas Jones. “Every citizen deserves equal opportunity to build for their economic future and one does not have a future without access to efficient broadband.”

The agreement paving the way for fiberoptic broadband internet access in Mansfield came on the heels of a state-required feasibility study to evaluate neighborhoods with broadband deficits.

“The feasibility study provided a model for an innovative ‘digital infrastructure’ platform for the city,” Louisiana Connected CEO Donnette Dunbar said in a statement released Friday. “Low-cost, high-speed Internet is the utility of the 21st century. Just as water appears when you turn on your faucet, it should be just as effortless to traverse the digital information highway when one opens a computer or clicks on a mobile device.”

The City of Mansfield and its partners expect to break ground by early fall.  

“Mansfield is taking unprecedented action to make sure the digital divide will soon be a thing of the past,” Lit Communities CEO Brian Snider said in the statement.

The consulting firm works to bring high-speed fiber networks to communities by assessing their needs and coming up with an actionable plan to get them connected. They say this deal is blazing a path other communities around the state and beyond can follow.

“Mansfield is setting an example for Louisiana and the nation on how a strategic plan and partnership can make this happen anywhere. With the city’s investment in both connectivity and new infrastructure, the partnerships in the future will allow not only better Internet but a better economic future.”