U.S. Senator Roger Wicker announced that $16 million will be going to broadband expansion in five Mississippi counties—Grenada, Panola, Tallahatchie, Quitman, and Yalobusha.
The money comes as part of the CARES Act funding that was distributed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It will provide internet to 2,000 people, 331 farms, 32 businesses, six fire stations, and one post office.
“This little grant yesterday, $16 million, it comes from a $100 million portion of the CARES Act,” Wicker explained. “After this gets billed out with this Department of Agriculture grant, [those counties’] internet service will be as good as anybody’s in Jackson or New York City or Washington, D.C.”
Earlier this year, the coronavirus pandemic forced Mississippi schools to close down and turn to remote learning, highlighting the utmost need for broadband expansion across the state.
While this grant is a good start to doing just that, a lot more government money will be needed to make internet available to every, single Mississippian, and Wicker made it clear that congressional grant programs currently in the making will make that goal more than attainable.
“This is just the beginning. We have two more programs with a lot more money to reach a lot more rural America coming in just the next few months.”
Additionally, the Mississippi Legislature voted to set aside $265 million of the $1.25 billion it received under the CARES Act to distance learning and broadband expansion.
Today, a baffling 41 percent of Mississippians cannot connect to the internet.