The Prentiss County Electric Power Association will receive over $4.5 million in grant funding to continue its work in boosting broadband access in the county.

The Mississippi Public Utilities Staff announced Tuesday the awarding of $65 million in 50/50 matching grant money to 15 electric cooperatives that will deploy fiber to provide high-speed broadband internet service to unserved and underserved areas of rural Mississippi. The $130 million total will be used to build fiber lines to provide high-speed internet in rural areas to help alleviate problems caused by the Corona Virus Pandemic.

The $65 million became available after the State Legislature passed Senate Bill 3046 – The Mississippi Electric Cooperatives Broadband COVID-19 Act – a few weeks ago. The money became available after Mississippi was awarded federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

Prentiss County Electric Power (PCEPA) applied for $5 million and was awarded $4,521,522.02. The grant money will be matched by PCEPA borrowed funds to provide high-speed internet access to many of the unserved (without TV cable or 25/3 Mbps internet service) census blocks as publicly listed on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) maps. Unserved communities like; Dry Creek, Oak Hill, Blackland, Osborn Creek, Pratt, Friendship, Hopewell, Meadow Creek, Zion’s Rest, Hobo Station, New Site, Bay Springs, New Hope, Blythe’s Chapel, Hills Chapel, Altitude, New Candler, Piney Grove, and others. All PCEPA members will have high-speed internet available before the project is completed.

“This CARES Act money is a great help for our high-speed internet plan of serving all of our electric members. I really appreciate our State leadership and our local Legislators in seeing the need and pushing to get this bill passed,” said General Manager, Ronny Rowland.

“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 for their leadership and to thank each Mississippi Legislator that voted to use this portion of the CARES grant money to combat unforeseen changes in people’s lives because of the Corona Virus Pandemic. I also want to thank Public Utilities Staff Executive Director Sally Doty and her entire staff for their hard work expediting the grant process,” said Michael Callahan, executive vice president and CEO of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi.

Callahan said when the fiber work funded by these grants begins, there will be broadband internet access available to 10,000 homes by this December. Once these grant projects are finished, there will be broadband service available to more than 35,000 homes in rural Mississippi.

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