Prentiss Connect has been selected for $6.8 million in federal funding to support the costs of building out high-speed fiber internet to rural areas.
Prentiss County Electric Power Association Manager Ronny Rowland said the end is in sight for the majority of the construction of the Prentiss Connect system which will make the high-speed service available to every customer who has access to electricity from PCEPA.
“We are just weeks away from completely running all of our mainline fiber,” said Rowland.
They expect to have the major build-out of the system complete by the end of June.
Prentiss Connect was recently approved for a total of $6.8 million to be paid as $680,000 per year over the next 10 years beginning this fall through the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund which is supported by the $1.60 Universal Service Charge paid by everyone on each month’s phone bill.
“We bid on all of the unserved census block groups where we serve electricity to all the customers. Because of other bidders we won about 60 percent of the money the FCC had estimated it would cost to serve those areas,” explained Rowland.
He said he’s concerned about the others who won the remainder of the funding, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX/Starlink satellite-based system which includes a $499 upfront equipment cost and will charge a $99.95 per month fee for up to 100 Mbs download speeds.
Musk’s company won $44 million to serve Mississippians and almost $1 billion nationwide.
“I have concerns about the quality of service some winners will provide over the next 10 years as the need for speed increases. As most everyone knows we committed to build fiber to all of our electric members no matter where they are located. This grant money will really help with the high cost to build to very rural customers sometimes a mile apart,” he said.
Rowland strongly encourages anyone who has waited to sign up for Prentiss Connect to go to prentissconnect.com or contact PCEPA to get their application for service in before the build out is complete.