JACKSON, Miss.—Mississippi Delta communities deserve equitable broadband access and transparency as the State decides how to use a $1.2 billion federal grant for expanding high-speed internet infrastructure, a coalition of activists and residents from the Magnolia State’s most impoverished region said from the steps of the Mississippi Capitol Building this week.
The Delta is Mississippi’s most impoverished region and many residents still lack broadband access.
“Oftentimes people come to the Mississippi Delta from outside of the Delta and tell us what they think we should have,” Mississippi House Rep. Otis Anthony, D-Indianola, said on Monday. “But this is what we’re looking for: We will continue to emphasize the importance of equitable broadband access for all of our communities.”
In June 2023, the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced a $42.45 billion grant program focused on expanding high-speed internet access in all 50 states as part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America Agenda.
‘We Must Close This Digital Divide’
Communities across Mississippi have dealt with a lack of access to reliable broadband for years. That reality hit residents hardest when the COVID-19 pandemic led to restrictions on in-person work and school, requiring children and adults alike to access their work virtually.
Rep. Anthony said on Monday that if those funds are used to increase broadband access equitably, it will mean better health-care services, public education and workforce development opportunities in Mississippi’s rural communities.
“We must close this digital divide,” Anthony continued. “Equitable access to broadband ensures that every corner of Mississippi—I can’t stress that enough, every corner of Mississippi, including those underserved minority communities—have the same access, the same educational and economic opportunities as those in urban areas.”
Mississippi House Rep. Otis Anthony, D-Indianola, is part of a coalition of Mississippi Delta residents urging the Office of Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi to be open about how funds will benefit the state’s underserved communities. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad
Activists said BEAM failed to adequately engage Mississippi’s underserved communities in conversations about their plans. BEAM’s Five Year Action Plan outlines over 20 community engagement meetings the
Read original article by clicking here.