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Multiple federal funding streams could boost Mississippi’s broadband expansion efforts

Multiple federal funding streams could boost Mississippi’s broadband expansion efforts
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 10:42 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi still has plenty of people who don’t have access to high-speed internet. But federal funding could boost the efforts to get them better connected.

Here’s the breakdown.

$100 million is coming into the state for high-speed internet via the infrastructure bill. Another $162 million is in the American Rescue Plan Act designated for broadband. As Sen. Walter Michel points out, some money was also designated for broadband expansion last year through the CARES Act.

“That will be the third opportunity the federal government has told us, ‘We want you to spend money on broadband,’” noted Michel. “So they’re making it very clear. We’re getting a mandate from Congress that they really want to get broadband in the rural areas, and Mississippi will certainly benefit greatly from that.”

Michel will serve on the study committee for how the state’s $1.8 billion share will be used.

“Lieutenant Governor Hosemann wants this to be a lasting expenditure of funds,” explained Hosemann. “He says that he doesn’t want it to be one or two years, he wants it to be one or two generations.”

That’s why Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley says broadband should be part of the consideration for some of that money, as well.

“The basic facts is these types of funds will never come our way again,” said Presley. “The question is whether or not we spend them wisely, conservatively, pinch every penny and demand results for every penny that goes out of the state treasurer. And I think that we can do that.”

Presley points out that just because a broadband map shows an area’s connected doesn’t mean it’s truly high-speed or available to every home in that area.

“I mean, we’re in the age of a Tesla, we can’t expect to have broadband that’s like a horse and buggy,” added Presley. “We should demand the highest speeds and the best capacity for our people, especially if the carriers are going to get free government money. I mean, this money came out of the pockets of the taxpayers of this country.”

The Senate ARPA Funds Study Committee will hold its first hearing on Monday, November 15.

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