Published by Matt Scallan
The Times Picayune
Many Edgard residents who currently don't have access to broadband Internet may find companies fighting for their business next year.
Comcast, the cable company that provides the service to portions of the parish's east bank, plans to offer service to west bank residents early next year, spokeswoman Patricia Collins said.
And St. John-based phone and cable provider Reserve Telecommunications says it also plans to compete for business with Comcast and AT&T, which offers broadband service to part of the area.
West bank residents have been clamoring for high-speed service for years. AT&T provides DSL service to neighborhoods in the vicinity of the parish courthouse in Edgard and to some homes near the foot of the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Wallace. But the service isn't available to many of the 3,400 residents. Satellite-based Internet and TV services also are available.
"It's good enough for what we use it for, but we'd like to have something better," said Edgard resident Chermaine Roybiskie of the satellite service her family currently uses. Her daughter Farrah, who writes romance novels under the pen name Farrah Rashon, needs the service to upload her work to her publisher.
"I could understand it if we were in a rural area, but there's a large community right across the river," Chermaine Roybiskie said.
What's driving the planned access is cable providers' expansion into more populous neighboring areas.
Collins, with Comcast, said that the company is extending a fiber optic link from LaPlace to Houma, which takes the main line over the nearby Veterans Memorial Bridge between Gramercy and Wallace.
"Therefore, we'll be able to launch more advanced services such as on demand, high def channels, as well as our high speed phone service and high speed internet," she said. "It's really exciting to be able to meet all those demands."
St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom said the expansion is welcome. "I am extremely excited that internet access and improved cable service will soon be available to the residents of the West Bank," she said in a statement. "They are an important part of St. John the Baptist Parish and should be treated as such. This is just the beginning of things coming to that part of the parish."
Reserve-based RTC is bringing over a fiber line to serve the Vacherie area on the west bank of St. James Parish. The expansion there will make it economical to provide high-speed service to Edgard residents, a company official said.
"There's not a bank in the world that would lend you the money to bring a line over just to serve the west bank of St. John. But since we're expanding into the west bank of St. James, it makes sense," RTC President Bill Ironside said.
Ironside said the company is in the planning stages of the expansion, and said a decision about whether to move forward would be made soon.
AT&T spokeswoman Sue Sperry said residents may at some point be able to buy the company's U-verse service, which also provides broadband Internet and a wide range of television offerings. However, she said the company is rolling out the service gradually, and doesn't announce expansion areas in advance to avoid tipping off competitors.