By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
A grant application will not be submitted on behalf of Alcorn County to expand high-speed Internet in rural areas.
It appears the county is ineligible for the federal funds, and there were also concerns about the local match money required, according to Alcorn County Chancery Clerk Greg Younger.
The deadline was Monday to apply for the USDA Rural Development Community Connect broadband grant.
An area must lack broadband speed of 10 megabits per second downstream and one megabit per second upstream to be eligible.
Alcorn County officials looked into the possibility of applying for the grant, and Supervisor James Voyles took part in a webinar hosted by USDA to learn more about the funding.
Younger reviewed Federal Communication Commission broadband maps and contacted a USDA Rural Development official in Alabama to see if the county was eligible. The USDA official told Younger in April that she was not aware of any eligible areas in Alcorn County.
However, that same USDA official later told Corinth Today in an email that, “I did not make a determination that Alcorn County, in its entirety, is ineligible.”
Another USDA official in Washington, D.C. ultimately concluded that “USDA would need to see the application” to determine if the county was eligible or not.
In an email this week to Corinth Today, Younger said the 15 percent local match required for the grant was also a concern. The possible grant amounts ranged from $100,000 to $3 million for expanding high-speed Internet in rural areas.
Local officials felt that $100,000 would not have been enough to do much in the way of broadband expansion in outlying areas, Younger said. And the $450,000 county match required by the $3 million grant would be too much for the county to bear, Younger added.
“The fact is we don’t have $450,000 to commit to a project like this and if we had that kind of money, we would need to be using it to plug deficits in the budgets of the Alcorn County Regional Correctional Facility and the E-911 program,” Younger said in the email.
While the county did not apply for this grant it is looking into other broadband expansion opportunities. Younger said he is inviting Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley to an Alcorn County Board of Supervisors meeting “in the near future” to discuss broadband issues.
“When we have a confirmation of the date, we will also invite leadership from the Alcorn County Electric Power Association and leaders from Corinth, Farmington, Glen, Kossuth and Rienzi,” Younger’s email stated.