Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley announced today a new effort to enlist the public in bringing high speed internet access to North Mississippi. In the vein of the highly successful Zap the Gap campaign which gathers information on wireless cell phone coverage, Presley introduced the Broadband Survey as a means of identifying areas lacking high speed internet. The information gathered by Presley’s office will be sent to the FCC and to companies designated as Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (“ETCs”) in order to ensure that North Mississippi receives federal support in line with its needs. Today Presley will be making stops in Tupelo, Columbus Greenwood and Hernando today and tomorrow announcing the program.
“No one is in a better position to identify the need for high speed internet than the small business owner who needs it to run their business, the parent whose child cannot access educational material for school, or the person who still cannot receive an email in 2013,” Presley said. “I hope this program gives these people a voice, and that ultimately, they have the tools and services they need.”
Presley is asking consumers to contact his office for a copy of the Broadband Survey and mail the form to Commissioner Brandon Presley, Attention: Zap the Gap, P.O. Box 1174, Jackson, MS 39215-11174. His office can be reached at 1-800-356-6428 or 1-800-637-7722. If you have somewhere to access the internet, an online form can be found at http://www.psc.state.ms.us/Commissioners/northern/zapthegap.html.
Consistent with the framework created by Congress, the Mississippi Public Service Commission designates companies as ETCs for participation in the FCC’s Connect America Fund (“CAF”). The Commission is tasked with ensuring that ETCs use CAF support consistent with federal statutes and FCC regulations, and it may collect information to preserve and advance the goal of universal broadband service. To ensure that CAF support is being used as intended, the law allows the Commission to gather data to note discrepancies between areas the companies show broadband coverage and where customers actually have access. Presley has found that hearing directly from customers provides the most direct route to identifying gaps in coverage.