Coast Electric to provide high speed internet

High-speed internet is on the verge of being a reality for residents of northern Pearl River County, thanks to a recent grant awarded to the Coast Electric Power Association. This news comes after Gov. Reeves’ announcement Tuesday afternoon regarding a new program that will expand the access of broadband internet to underserve, rural areas.

“Everyone in Mississippi doesn’t have strong, positive internet access they may need to get a good quality education while staying at home,” Gov. Reeves said.

This grant was submitted among other applications for broadband high-speed internet pilot projects in the state, funded by the federal CARES Act coronavirus recovery plan.

According to Coast Electric, “broadband provides consumers with a link to the internet, including voice, data, video and email services. The connection Coast Electric is considering would be through a fiber optic connection, which many believe provides the fastest and most reliable broadband service to consumers. Coast Electric would need to extend fiber across areas of its system, mostly on its own poles, to provide that fiber access to consumers.”

The project is called the “Rural Broadband Pilot Project” and was defined by Coast Electric as “a small-scale venture that will help the cooperative determine and evaluate the feasibility of providing broadband service to other areas of its service territory.”

The Mississippi State Legislature set aside $65 million in matching funds for broadband deployment by electric cooperatives throughout the state. This grant funding will be awarded through the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff. Coast Electric’s pilot project will cost an estimated $15.3 million with $5.4 million of that cost covered by the grant.

Coast Electric President and CEO Ron Barnes thanked those who made this happen.

“We would like to thank Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Sen. Joel Carter, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and State Rep. Scott Bounds, chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee. We also want to thank Public Utilities Staff Executive Director Sally Doty and her entire staff for their hard work expediting the grant process.”

Chairman Dane Maxwell said, “This is an exciting day toward progress in the effort to connect every Mississippi home to high-speed internet access. While money is not a simple solution to our problems, this program puts us in a much better place to prepare for the future. We’re excited about this program going through and we will continue to work on partnerships and initiatives to further connect Mississippians to these services until we solve this widespread issue.”

Coast Electric has been researching the possibility of offering high-speed internet service in Pearl River, Hancock and Harrison counties since the state legislature passed a bill in 2019 allowing electric cooperatives in Mississippi to offer broadband service. The company is currently asking its members to cast a vote to ratify an amendment to the cooperative’s Certificate of Consolidation which would allow Coast Electric to offer broadband high-speed internet, should the board of directors find it is in the best interest of the community.

Members in northern Pearl River County served by the Derby or Crossroads substations who are interested in participating in the pilot project should fill out a sign up form at www.coastepa.com beginning today. Service will begin in those areas around October.

@WRJW  

Pearl River Communications

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