A few days ago, I joined with a number of my legislative colleagues and other elected officials to discuss plans for establishing broadband services to the rural areas of Mississippi – an idea whose time is certainly upon us. The meeting was sponsored by the Electric Power Association of Mississippi and included Mississippi’s Public Service Commissioners, who have all endorsed the idea.
Unfortunately, the current law does not allow this common sense answer to an economic development dilemma.
A draft legislative measure was presented and discussed. The proposal is a straightforward declaration of the right of rural electric cooperatives to permit installation of broadband systems for their customers. It is patterned after the broadband program currently underway next door in Alabama. Because the cooperatives already have a robust infrastructure present in every area of the state that needs electricity, these groups are perfectly positioned to facilitate broadband service.
Mississippi is primarily a rural state and because our law has prohibited the cooperatives from allowing broadband systems to use their facilities, many of our citizens have been denied the good quality broadband service at a reasonable price that others take for granted.
We hope to change all of that during the upcoming legislative session. A measure is being introduced that will untie the hands of cooperatives and allow them to provide their customers with access to highspeed internet services in their homes.
We believe that the lack of high-quality, reasonably priced broadband internet into the rural areas of our state has hampered economic development and even contributed to young people abandoning their local communities and creating a so-called “brain drain” in our state.
We’ve had our constituents tell us of the hardships brought upon them by not being able to access dependable internet services. We believe that the proposed measure will make sure this service is available to all Mississippians, no matter their zip codes. This is only fair and right.
For those of us who enjoy broadband connectivity, it is hard to imagine not being able to work from home when necessary, to take on-line classes, to complete homework assignments, to enjoy face-to-face communication with loved ones and the myriad other services that we have come to depend upon in modem society.
I will be supporting this measure in the upcoming session, and I believe it will positively affect the security and economic development of our rural communities in unprecedented ways.
I believe it is wrong to deny Mississippi citizens who want to live in rural areas decent, high speed, and affordable internet service, which is available in other states and can be available in our state.