CoastConnect gets $7.8 million to provide internet to rural areas

CoastConnect gets $7.8 million to provide internet to rural areas

KILN, Miss. (WLOX) - Across Mississippi, efforts are underway to provide high-tech internet service to some of the state’s most underserved communities.

“Mississippi is always last in a lot of areas, but we won’t be this time,” said Mississippi Public Service Commissioner for the Southern District Dane Maxwell.

Excitement was in the air Monday after CoastConnect received an eligible telecommunications carrier certification from the commission, which essentially allows the company to receive $7.8 million from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

The money will go toward high-speed internet in rural and underserved areas in Coast Electric’s service area.

“I call (it) zapping the gaps,” Maxwell said.

The new funds help an existing $100 million effort to link up homes that never had high-speed service.

“Some people went from having no internet to having the best internet you can have,” CoastConnect CEO Ron Barnes said.

Allocations like this will become more common as the commission distributes $1.2 billion.

Mississippi received the second-largest allocation in the country right after California.

“High-speed internet is ours so we are going to build it. We’re going to build it out and put it all over the state of Mississippi,” Maxwell said.

Officials said they understand projects like this not only improve the lives of residents but also puts them on par with people living in urban areas.

“They are begging us to come out there and serve this internet to them,” Barnes said. “So every time we get someone on Facebook or they call us or we go out into the community and see them, they are so excited because for the first time they are able to have what they have in the cities, which is true broadband internet.”

The hope is the service allows for more access to health and educational tools, like telemedicine services and distance learning.

Overall, officials hope the funds help propel Mississippi into the tech world for years to come.

“This is going to last for several generations what we are doing today,” Maxwell said.

CoastalConnect said it will finish providing internet to all of Pearl River County and the north half of Hancock County by the end of the year.

The company hopes to finish the rest of Hancock County and Harrison County sometime in 2022.

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