By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
A bill to allow electric cooperatives to own and operate broadband Internet services has passed the Mississippi House.
An estimated 35 to 45 percent of Alcorn County households lack broadband Internet subscriptions, recent Census data showed.
The bill, which passed the House in a 115-3 vote this week, has now been sent to the state Senate for approval.
Electric cooperatives would have to conduct an economic feasibility study before providing broadband services.
Expanding high-speed Internet, also called broadband, to rural areas is a major effort nationally. A recent USDA study said rural prosperity can only be truly achieved by connecting the rural U.S. with high-speed Internet.
Recent Census data estimated that approximately 55-65 percent of Alcorn County households have some kind of broadband Internet subscription. The percentages were the same for the neighboring counties of Prentiss, Tishomingo and Tippah.
Mississippi is among the states nationally with the lowest levels of broadband Internet subscriptions. Alcorn County has a higher level of Internet subscriptions than many other counties in the state, but still lags behind many areas in the nation, the data showed.
Nationally, higher levels of Internet subscriptions were associated with higher incomes. On average, 76 percent of households had broadband Internet subscriptions in counties with a median income of $50,000 or more.
In comparison, roughly 65 percent of households had broadband subscriptions in counties with a median income less than $50,000.