By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
Three Alcorn County elected officials said Friday they did not take part in an online seminar about how to apply for USDA Rural Development grant money to expand high-speed Internet in rural areas.
Alcorn County supervisors James Voyles and Lowell Hinton said they did not participate in the national webinar hosted by the USDA Rural Utilities Service on Thursday.
Alcorn County Chancery Clerk Greg Younger, who has been out of the office this week, also did not take part. County officials have one more chance to participate in the webinar when it is held again on Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.
Three other Alcorn County elected officials — Supervisors Tim Mitchell, Steve Glidewell and Jimmy Tate Waldon — could not be reached for comment Friday to see if they participated in the online seminar Thursday to learn about the USDA broadband grant opportunities.
USDA said this week that Alcorn County may be eligibe for the grant money to expand high-speed Internet in rural areas.
Younger said Friday that if no Alcorn County officials took part in the webinar this week then he will make sure someone participates in the Tuesday session.
The purpose of the webinar was to “provide detailed guidance on how to submit a successful application” for the USDA grants, which range from $100,000 to $3 million and require a 15 percent local match.
Hinton was unaware that a webinar on broadband grant money was held this week. However, Hinton said there are rural parts of Alcorn County that “absolutely” need better Internet service. Alcorn County officials should look into applying for the USDA grant money, he added.
Voyles said this week that expanding high-speed Internet in rural areas is an important issue to many Alcorn County residents. Despite expressing the need for improved broadband in Alcorn County, Voyles did not take part in the USDA webinar to hear more about the grants.
Voyles said Friday that Younger may have followed up on the issue.
Clayton Stanley, president and CEO of The Alliance, the local economic development agency, also could not be reached for comment Friday. But earlier this week Stanley said high-speed Internet in today’s society is a basic utility and said not having it is an “inconvenience.”
Improved access to broadband Internet in rural areas has become a point of focus nationally.
“E-connectivity is essential to the economic vitality and quality of life in rural communities,” said Anne Hazlett, assistant to the secretary for USDA Rural Development. “Investing in broadband can strengthen rural economic growth and improve critical access to jobs, education, health care and social services.”