The effort to shrink the digital divide in Mississippi continues as CARES Act funding is beginning to bring broadband to rural areas.
Over the summer, the passage of the ‘COVID-19 Connectivity Act’ led to the allocation of $65 million to 15 Mississippi co-ops that would be used to address “unserved and underserved” areas. At the time, Staff Director of the Public Utilities Staff Sally Doty explained that the grant program would lead to the installation of 2,765 miles of fiber by the end of 2020 and an additional 1,980 miles in 2021.
On Twitter this morning, Doty detailed the progress made in recent months.
Recipients of the COVID 19 Broadband Grant report 1437 miles of fiber installed and 1000 households connected. Proud of this progress! @JoelCarterMS @cs_bounds @DelbertHosemann @tatereeves @DaneMaxwellMS @MPSCBrentBailey @BrandonPresley
— Sally Doty (@SallyDoty) November 17, 2020
According to the Mississippi Public Service Commission, the thousands of miles of new fiber has the potential to bring service to over 45,700 homes by the end of 2021.
When the bill was passed, Doty, a former state senator, discussed the importance of this undertaking in the midst of the pandemic.
“Building out this broadband network is very much like what our co-ops did in the early 1900s to get electricity out to our rural homes. Internet is now so integrated into all areas of our life – education, medical services, telework and economic development – and with the precautions we have to take to protect ourselves from COVID-19, fast & reliable internet is a necessity and a lifeline to the outside world,” Doty said.
Each grant recipient must also match the funds they receive — doubling the state’s investment in the effort to expand access to broadband internet.