Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley Credit: PSC

About 15,000 locations in rural Mississippi communities now have access to broadband internet.

These homes and small businesses within Desoto, Harrison, Jackson, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola, Pontotoc, Stone and Tate counties can choose an AT&T internet plan ranging from $50 to $90 per month depending on the speed.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, Mississippi Public Service Commission Chairman Brandon Presley and AT&T Mississippi President Mayo Flynt on June 3 announced the broadband internet service launch at a news conference in Taylor. Broadband services were made available to homes and small businesses that day.

Presley later said that not being able to connect to the internet at high speeds and affordable rates is a quality of life issue.

“If you can give high-speed internet service to every child in a rural county of Mississippi, you’re able to connect them to every bit of research they could need,” Presley said. “I’ve talked to many parents whose schools have gone to electronic textbooks, and you’ve got to have an internet connection to make those work properly or to get the most out of that experience.”

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s website, broadband commonly refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than traditional dial-up access. This includes DSL, cable modem, fiber and wireless internet connections.

AT&T Mississippi spokesperson Tarvis Thompson said everyone involved in the broadband launch can order the telecommunications company’s “U-verse” services, which include internet, phone and Satellite TV.

“It helps everything from telehealth (to) the education gap,” Thompson said. “Unfortunately, Mississippi is last in so many things. Hopefully, this type of technology can help close the gap where Mississippi drags behind in so many areas and help educational outcomes.”

With help from the FCC’s Connect America Fund, AT&T filed a plan with the Mississippi PSC to receive about $75.8 million for the project, Thompson said. AT&T has accepted from the fund another $50 million annually for 6 years for Mississippi communities, she said.