By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
The lack of high-speed Internet in Alcorn County is an “infrastructure crisis,” a state official told the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors on Monday morning.
“The demand for this service from your constituents is not going to get slower,” Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said.
Rural residents who cannot get high-speed Internet feel as though they are geographically discriminated against, Presley said.
“They feel like their kids are falling further and further behind (because they lack broadband), and that’s true,” Presley said.
People are leaving rural areas to be in places where they can have other Internet options, he said.
“We’re telling people in this state, you have to leave the rural lifestyle to participate in the 2018 economy,” Presley said, adding, “That’s unacceptable.”
Presley and other officials are working with electric cooperatives to implement a rural high-speed Internet plan that has been successful in Alabama. He said an electric cooperative in Alabama can provide extremely fast Internet service for $49.99 per month.
“They’re literally changing the landscape of rural northwest Alabama,” Presley said.
Allowing electric cooperatives to provide high-speed Internet is a good idea because big telecommunication companies are not going to extend broadband to isolated areas, he said.
“They can’t make a quick enough return on their investment,” he said.
Rural areas without broadband Internet miss opportunities for economic development, quality of life and online healthcare, Presley noted.
Many jobs allow people to work from home thanks to the Internet, but this option is not available for those who lack broadband, he said. Mississippi will lose those professionals if it cannot solve the broadband problem, he added.
One of the bigger questions people have when buying a home is whether they can get high-speed Internet, Presley noted.
Public officials, electric cooperatives and others will soon have a chance to travel to Alabama where the model is being implemented to see how it could work here.
The state Legislature must change current statutory language to allow electric cooperatives to provide high-speed Internet, Presley added. A bill will be filed next year, and Presley said a legislative fight is anticipated.
High-speed Internet in today’s world is the same as electricity was a few generations ago, he said.