Prentiss County Electric Power Association officials joined state and federal officials Monday to celebrate $6.8 million in federal grant funding coming to the association to help fund the installation of high-speed fiber internet in rural areas.
The association will receive a total of $6.8 million over the next 10 years from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to help fund building out the fiber infrastructure for the most underserved areas of the association’s electric system.
PCEPA Manager Ronny Rowland said Monday’s event was an opportunity for Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley to recognize all of the work being done in his district to bring high-speed internet to rural areas.
“Folks in the service territory of Prentiss Connect deserve the same internet access as people living in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Mississippi can never move into the modern world of education, economic development, health care or quality of life if our people are forced to sit at a fast food restaurant just to get on the internet. I am bound and determined that we fix this issue, and these funds to Prentiss Connect are a big step forward.” Commissioner Presley said.
Rowland said work is moving forward quickly toward completion of the initial phase of construction on the Prentiss Connect system.
“I am excited about how well our project is progressing. We are just a few months from completing our construction and serving all the customers that started signing up 16 months ago. Today [Tuesday] we are connecting on the our east side in the large area around New Site and Bay Springs and on the west side around Jumpertown and Pisgah. We plan to connect 25 customers today. Our next area for splicing and service is west of Frankstown and west of Baldwyn where the main roads have TV cable now but we will be serving everyone on the side roads all the way to our customers in eastern Union County. Last week we increased our fiber ring capacity between Booneville, Baldwyn and Hobo Station from 40 gig to 100 gig. Today we are adding two more main connections from Prentiss County to Atlanta and Chicago making a total of four. If one route gets cut the other three will continue to serve our customers,” he said.
The manager is also asking residents to help protect the new infrastructure from damage.
“We encourage everyone to help us keep our fiber protected and operating. The fiber is made from plastic and glass so it is easily damaged by trees, guns, fires and squirrels. We have already had several damaged locations. We are adding poles daily to make the fiber more secure but we ask everyone to help watch for fiber too low especially farmers as they begin plowing to let us know if the fiber is too low over their fields. We could not get into muddy fields during the winter to set taller poles,” he said.
Rowland strongly encourages anyone who has waited to sign up for Prentiss Connect to go to prentiss connect.com or contact PCEPA to get their application for service in before the build out is complete.