The Office of Broadband Expansion and Accessibility for Mississippi (BEAM) and the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi have partnered to present the state’s first broadband community engagement event.

The free event — held Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lyric Hotel in Cleveland — will serve as an informational overview of how residents can get involved in shaping broadband plans for their communities and even how to utilize available credits to lower their internet bills.

Many counties and cities in the Mississippi Delta, like other rural areas of the state, have been slow to gain access to high-speed internet access.

“A person’s zip code should not determine their access to the full range of benefits that high speed broadband access has to offer,” said BEAM director Sally Doty. “The BEAM office is committed to overcoming geographical barriers and leveling the playing field by providing technological opportunity for Mississippians across all corners of our state.”

The Office of Broadband Expansion and Accessibility for Mississippi was created by state lawmakers in 2022 to serve as the state’s single point of contact for broadband issues and to serve as the clearinghouse for federal grant funds for broadband expansion.

Speakers at the Thursday event include: BEAM director Sally Doty; Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons; state Director for Digital Skills and Accessibility Angelique Lee; community leaders from Quitman County; Vermont-based Center On Rural Innovation’s southeast director Brandon Campbell; and Microsoft representatives.

A public library representative will also detail how all Delta residents can gain free broadband access and education in their communities, according to a press release for the event.

“We are inviting everyone who may want to shape the state’s Broadband plan, see how to develop a plan for their community, or learn how to gain free or reduced cost to access Broadband,” said Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi President Keith Fulcher.

Admission is free for all Delta residents, but registration is necessary.

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