BAY SPRINGS, Miss. (WDAM) - Mississippi is getting more than $4 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand broadband internet in five counties. The investment is part of the $550 million that Congress allocated for the nationwide rural internet ReConnect Loan and Gran Program.
The USDA announced its $4.6 million grant for the Central Mississippi Rural Community Fiber ReConnect Project in Bay Springs. TEC, a communications company based in Bay Springs, is providing an additional $2.6 million to help expand internet access to rural Mississippians.
U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith attended the event Monday where she spoke about reliable internet as a necessity.
“And the broadband, that is just something we have to have, just like water, electricity, gas. We have to have this other utility,” Hyde-Smith said.
Greg Ibach, USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs explained what TEC’s investment will means.
“With this investment, the Bay Springs Telephone Company [TEC] will connect 5,139 people, 77 farms, 69 business, five educational facilities, two healthcare facilities, two post offices, three fire stations,” Ibach said.
Ibach also emphasized the need for reliable internet right now.
“The need for distance learning, the need to be able to access critical medical serviced through telemedicine and even to be able to run our businesses and do our daily jobs from afar is all dependent on what high-speed internet we have available,” Ibach said.
TEC will install 166 miles of fiber internet bringing high-speed internet to areas of Jasper, Smith, Newton, Lauderdale, and Jones counties. Gigabit high-speed internet will be made available in Stringer, Moss, Hickory, Chunky and Taylorsville.
Southern District Public Service Commissioner and PSC chairman Dane Maxwell said one of the main goals of the Mississippi Public Service Commission is working to expand internet access.
“We’re gonna try to cover every single person, and we’re not gonna stop until we do cover those people," Maxwell said. "That may be a generation from now before we complete it, but we’re not gonna stop that’s basically a fundamental belief now in the commission. And we’re gonna keep pushing for the funding on the federal side as well as our local partners here.”
The installation for the fiber internet will start next spring.