Thanks to a $3.9 million state grant, the Natchez Trace Electric Power Association will be able to offer broadband to residents in the Webster County area. According to the Chickasaw Journal, the grant will benefit 2,292 eligible businesses and households.
Natchez Trace General Manager Shawn Edmondson announced last week the broadband pilot project will see the company lay 340 miles of fiber to connect the new users. To meet the terms of the grant, NTEPA will be responsible for completing the project by the end of 2020.
“The purpose of this pilot project is to determine if there is enough member interest, i.e. subscribers, to make a larger, system-wide broadband deployment feasible,” Edmonson said. “The broadband project will be installed by contractors. Therefore, our electric members will still be taken care of by our electric employees. We will be sending out much more information in the coming days and weeks about the pilot project. For now, I want to reassure our electric members that they will not be ignored,” he said.
The Mississippi Electric Cooperatives Broadband COVID-19 grant program was established in July and has already helped fund 13 northern Mississippi co-operatives. The $65 million in funding will finance the expansion of high-speed internet service to areas that are presently underserved.
“To be awarded the grant, the electric cooperatives must first agree to spend the monies in areas that lack service, match every dollar of grant funds with private funds and provide symmetrical speeds of 100 mbps upload and download to locations in the area,” said Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley. “The portion of each project funded by the grant program must be operational by December 30. These grant announcements say to rural Mississippians that help is on the way. By targeting these grants to only be spent in areas that lack service, we know that these dollars will go to many places that need internet service most,” he said.