PSC establishes “Connect Mississippi Committee”

As part of its effort to improve access to broadband internet in Mississippi, the Public Service Commission has voted to establish the “Connect Mississippi Committee.”

According to the PSC, the 13-member committee will consist of representatives from significant sectors of the state’s economy and education system. The members of the committee will be announced in August and will be charged with “further identifying current connectivity issues experienced throughout the state in the areas of education, economic development and telemedicine and establish comprehensive recommendations including any legislation that would most effectively address these challenges.”

“I am very excited to be a part of this effort and progress to connect all Mississippians to reliable internet services,” PSC Chairman Dane Maxwell said. “Our goal is to appoint local leaders to this committee who will help in the Commission’s efforts to be a voice for our rural areas that are unserved or underserved. Adequate Internet speeds help drive with these leaders to make a positive impact for the future of our great state.

The 2020 legislative session concluded last week, and lawmakers allocated $275 million of CARES Act funding to improve broadband and distance learning efforts in rural areas. 

“This is the equivalent of the initial delivery of electricity to rural Mississippi,” Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann said late last week. “Not only will it help prepare our schools for the fall, but it will impact thousands of Mississippians who currently do not have access to broadband, a major hindrance for teaching, learning, and telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hosemann said.  “We are grateful to all of the individuals and entities who banded together to get these bills passed including Senator DeBar, Senator Carter, Senator Scott Delano, the Public Service Commission, the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi, and others.”

Each sitting Public Service Commissioner will appoint 4 members from their respective districts to the committee while the Chairperson will be selected by nomination and vote of the full Public Service Commission. Additionally, the Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Senator Joel Carter and Chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee Representative Scott Bounds will serve as representatives of Mississippi Legislature.