/Reeves signs bill creating Mississippi broadband office, appoints Sally Doty to run it

Reeves signs bill creating Mississippi broadband office, appoints Sally Doty to run it

The new office will allocate federal funds in excess of $100 million to improve broadband internet access across Mississippi. Some estimates have that 40% of Mississippi’s population is not connected. This effort is compared to the 1930s when electricity was provided to rural Mississippi. Reeves stated that “it is my strong belief” that no one’s zip code should limit access to these technologies. He also signed House Bill 1029 into Law and announced Doty’s appointment. “… Mississippi has a need for someone who is willing to get up every day and ask, “What can we do to improve and expand broadband access for all of our state?” The new BEAM office will receive applications from internet providers and distribute $162 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act money for broadband expansion projects. The infrastructure bill Congress passed in late 2013 will provide funding for broadband expansion of the order range of $500 million to $1.1billion. As the 2020 public utilities staff director, Doty has been overseeing broadband expansion in Mississippi. In recent years, the state has received federal funds totalling hundreds of millions for broadband expansion. The state was awarded $495 million by the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and another $75 million by lawmakers from the first round pandemic relief. The majority of this money was given to rural electric cooperatives. READ MORE: Mississippi’s cable giants fight for federal broadband dollars Doty stated that electric co-ops, small rural phone companies and rural electric cooperatives have laid thousands upon miles of fiber optics and connected thousands of households to the internet since receiving funds in an earlier round. Doty stated that she wants all Mississippians to be able to take part in the digital economy. Doty stated that Mississippians need to have access to telehealth and higher education as well as remote working opportunities. The act was also authored by Scott Bounds (Republican from Philadelphia), who is chairman of House Public Utilities. He said that 40 states already have an office to oversee broadband expansion, and the federal government has invested billions of dollars in the effort. The new office and legislation, he said, will be an invaluable resource for both state and federal future efforts. Reeves stated that the new office would help to ensure “accountability” and transparency in Mississippi’s use of hundreds of millions of dollars from federal funds for broadband. After signing the bill, Reeves was also asked questions about the exemptions in the law regarding BEAM from open meetings and public records laws. According to the new law, BEAM records are confidential, proprietary and exempt from disclosure. Reeves stated that there are accountability measures in place for the new office, and that it will be accountable both to taxpayers and him. Reeves stated that the public disclosure shield measures were necessary to ensure internet providers are open about their work and area maps. There is an issue in the country with accurate internet service maps.