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Realtor Continues Push For County-wide Internet Service

WATER VALLEY – A local realtor continues to lobby county and city officials to push to ensure that all residents in Yalobusha County will have access to broadband internet service in the near future.

Lee McMinn attended the Jan. 3 county supervisor meeting, explaining the purpose of his visit was two-fold – to publicize that there will be areas in the county that will not have access to broadband internet service following fiber build-outs by two electric power associations that serve the county; and to urge all of the players involved to start communicating about options to remedy this problem.

McMinn’s primary focus during last week’s supervisor meeting as well as an earlier City of Water Valley meeting in October was approximately 200 households located outside the city limits of Water Valley, but receive power from the city’s electric department. He explained that many of the 200 households do not have access to high speed internet through providers that serve residents inside the city limits. McMinn lives on County Road 214, just west of the Highway 7 bypass.

“I have no internet, I am too far out at the end of the line. Too far out for AT&T Uverse, too far out for Maxx South cable,” he told supervisors.

McMinn added that while his residence is located in Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association’s (TVEPA) coverage area, and he will have access to fiber internet when TVIfiber’s buildout is completed later this year, there are no plans to provide broadband internet to many of the 200 households who live in the same vicinity, but receive electricity from the city’s electric department. This area includes portions of County Road 114, County Road 220, County Road 100, County Road 105, County Road 106, County Road 109 in Yalobusha County. This area also includes households in Lafayette County who receive power from the Water Valley Electric Department including County Road 389 and County Road 390

“They are left out and there is no plan that I am aware of to provide internet to these people,” McMinn told supervisors. “I have talked to everybody, Tommy Reynolds, Brandon Presley, supervisors and city officials. The reason I am here is to publicize this fact and to also plead with this board to help facilitate a conversation between all the players. That includes the City of Water Valley, TVEPA, TVIfiber and perhaps Northeast SPARC, to take care of these 200 or so households that are not in line to get any internet at all.”

Background On The Buildout

In 2019, state lawmakers passed a law allowing electric cooperatives to provide internet service to help expand broadband access in a rural state where an estimated 40 percent of the population in Mississippi had no access to internet service. Electric cooperatives in the area – TVEPA and its subsidiary company, TVIfiber; Northeast Mississippi Electric Power Association and its subsidiary company, NE SPARC; and Natchez Trace Electric Power Association and its subsidiary company, NT Spark – launched massive buildouts to provide broadband for their customers after the law change.

But McMinn reiterated that there are areas in Yalobusha County that are not located inside the coverage area for the electric power associations and will not have broadband access.

Broader Discussion

Board President Cayce Washington told McMinn that Congressman Bennie Thompson has reached out requesting information about portions of the county that will not have access to broadband internet.

“Congressman Thompson reached out to (District 4 Supervisor) Eddie Harris,” Washington explained. “We sent him a county map that shows holes in the coverage.”

Washington also said that Kagan Coughlin, Director of the Yalobusha County Economic Development and Tourism District, will communicate with C-Spire about broadband internet options.

District 5 Supervisor Gaylon Gray added that a portion of southeast Yalobusha County located south of the Skuna River located in the Natchez Trace Electric Power Association will soon have access to broadband internet from the electric company.

“We are fixing to sign up,” Gray added about subscribing to NT Spark’s internet service at his residence.

Outside of the City of Water Valley Electric Department’s coverage area, that only leaves a few small areas in western Yalobusha County that receive power from Entergy Mississippi where there are no immediate plans to install broadband internet service.

McMinn cited NE SPARC as a potential option to provide broadband internet service to the 200 households outside of Water Valley. NE SPARC provides broadband internet service for customers in southwest Lafayette County adjacent to Yalobusha County.

McMinn also said there have been discussions between Water Valley Mayor Donald Gray and TVEPA for fiber to provide internet to the 200 households. But McMinn noted that TVEPA’s focus remains on completing the buildout in their coverage area before entering negotiations to extend service to other areas.

“I want all the players at the table, the sooner the better,” McMinn told supervisors.

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