Brandon Presley

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley speaks with residents at the Alcorn County Courthouse Tuesday evening about issues relating to internet, phone and water service.

With the power of broadband coming to everyone from Corinth to Goose Pond, what is the next step?

“Are we only going to use it to mind our neighbor’s business through Facebook or order something on Amazon?” asked Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley. “What are the possibilities for economic development, education, health care, quality of life?”

He spoke about the fiber region emerging in the state’s northeast corner during a town hall meeting in Corinth Tuesday evening.

“You’re going to have an asset here that would make folks in surrounding states jealous,” said Presley, “and is going to connect your kids and your grandkids and this economy to the future forever.”

He said the Covid pandemic made the need clear as people worked and participated in school remotely.

“The jury has returned its verdict – it is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Presley. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got every Mississippian covered with some choice of broadband service to be able to just operate in the modern life.”

He praised ACE Fiber’s work to get the system up and running.

“As of today, Alcorn County fiber now has the main lines built to every place in their territory where they have electricity service,” the commissioner said. “The basic infrastructure is now completely in place. As of today, there are over 2,800 customers who have already signed up, and they have not even gotten out into the most rural areas that lack access, where that number is going to go through the roof.”

The fiber service is expected to increase health care access through telemedicine and to boost education. For every community college and university course in the state, there is some online component, he said.

One of the challenges for local communities is “how do we stop the trail of taillights going to Nashville, Tennessee … We’re losing young people to bigger metropolitan areas,” he said.

Scam calls

Presley also talked about his office’s ongoing efforts to investigate and combat spam phone calls. The office continues to see people falling victim to calls from scammers posing as agencies such as Social Security or the IRS. Lottery scam calls are also a continuing problem.

He told of a person in a neighboring county who lost a total of $354,000 to phone scammers.

“It started off with, ‘You’ve won $20 million, and if you send us $250, we’ll send it to you,’” said Presley.

The victims, he said, often get caught up in an “alternate reality.”

“If you send that money, our chances of getting that back are a needle in a haystack,” he said. “It all started with thinking you’ve won something that there’s no way on God’s green earth you’ve won and sending that money. And it’s just like calling in the cavalry when you do that, because these folks are drug dealers, criminals, thieves.”

Much of the activity originates from Jamaica with an 876 area code, he said.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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