GREENE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – Internet availability in some parts of Mississippi, including Greene County, appears to be worse than state leaders first thought, according to new data.
Greene County has the sixth lowest internet availability rate in the state with 95.2%, or 7,239 households and businesses considered unserved or underserved.
69.1% is unserved with no access to internet connection that supports 25 megabytes per second (mbps) download speed and 3 mbps upload speeds. Another 26% is underserved with no access to internet connection at 100 mbps download and 20 mbps upload speeds.
The data from the Office of Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi (BEAM), released March 1, contradicts the federal government’s assessment that nearly none of Greene County is unserved, while 97% is underserved.
Mississippi’s portion of federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will be determined by the number of unserved and underserved locations in the state. Currently, that number will be determined by the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Map, publicly released for the first time in November.
Over the next few months, BEAM will be using data collected from its website and its own mapping contractor to challenge inaccuracies in the current federal data. The feds will use their data in July 2023 to allocate funding among all 50 states. The state data says 42.5% of all Mississippi households have limited internet access versus the FCC’s 28.5%.
“We knew the initial [FCC] map would not show a true picture of broadband service in Mississippi and our office is ready to engage in the challenge process so Mississippi will be fairly represented,” BEAM Director Sally Doty said in December.
The new state map, showing broadband availability at each address in the state, opened the two-week period on March 20 for any internet service provider (ISP) to challenge the findings.
Applications will open in April for ISPs to apply for state grants to expand service at 100 mbps for uploading and downloading to unreached locations. The state has $151 million from the federal Capital Projects Fund and BEAM says it will match tens of millions in more funding for the projects.
The applications will be ranked in part based on how they meet the fund’s priorities:
- Broadband infrastructure deployment designed to directly enable work, education, and healthcare monitoring
- Address a critical need that resulted from or was made apparent or exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health emergency
- Address a critical need of the community to be served by broadband
Award announcements for this round of funding are scheduled by June and the projects will have to be wrapped up by 2026.
BEAM is also overseeing other internet access expansion projects that have already been awarded.
Mississippi has the second-highest award ($450 million) out of any state from the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund awarded in 2020. ISPs won bids to fund infrastructure expansion in Benton, Lafayette, Lee, Marshall, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tippah and Union counties.
“These funds will be dispersed over ten years, but are already making a big difference,” Gov. Tate Reeves said in November. “As it played a major role in helping the electrical cooperatives of Mississippi sign up over 100,000 high-speed internet subscribers in rural parts of our state.”
The state is expecting an additional $1.6 billion from the federal Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment Program later this year.
The state broadband office still wants Mississippians to take an internet speed test to determine what speeds are available at their home. The survey is available on BEAM’s website: https://www.broadbandms.com/. Homes without any internet access can report it by texting “Internet” to or calling 601-439-2535.