Report your internet — help extend broadband access across MS
Published 10:21 am Thursday, December 8, 2022
The latest, most accurate way of expanding internet coverage for people in Mississippi is now here.
The Office of Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi (BEAM) has launched a new website to create an updated map of coverage in the state.
The website — https://broadbandms.com/ — will gather information about internet usage and availability. The collected data will allow BEAM to create a unique and continually updated Mississippi Broadband Map, critical for expanding broadband infrastructure in the state.
Tuesday, Dec. 13, BEAM director Sally Doty will be in her home city of Brookhaven for a discussion on local broadband access and availability. The breakfast meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, and is open to the public. Tuesday’s meeting in Brookhaven is one of several across the state, which will begin Monday.
“Southwest Mississippi is one of the most ‘un-served’ and underserved areas of our state,” Doty said. “Compiling data through the website will go straight to a broadband map we’re creating for the state, which we will then use to challenge the FCC map.”
The Federal Communications Commission unveiled a new broadband map on Nov. 18.
“Because it includes satellite providers, it shows Mississippi as 100 percent covered. But we know that’s not accurate,” Doty said. “It’s the first draft, so we knew it would have some problems with it.”
That map is available at https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov.
The BEAM office must submit any initial challenge by Jan. 13, 2023. Doty said it’s a pretty quick turnaround time, especially considering the holiday season, but her office is prepared.
“We have been waiting on this map, expecting it. My office has been gathering data to challenge it already. This crowd-sourced input from the new website will help us collect accurate data,” she said.
The goal is to have about 100,000 visitors to the site before Jan. 1. Visitors should access the site from their home or other location where they would desire personal broadband coverage.
“Visit it more than once — about once a day for a week — so we get a true picture of the speeds and service you get,” Doty said. “When you go to the website, it runs three tests automatically. It does not collect any personal data. It’s great to visit at different times of the day. It’s different in the middle of the day when people are at work and kids are at school, versus in the evenings when people are playing games, downloading or streaming videos.”
The Mississippi map on the site will be updated repeatedly as new data is gathered.
Low-income families should also be aware of the Affordable Connectivity Program, Doty said.
“Anyone who qualifies already for SNAP, free or reduced school lunches, Medicaid, etc., can qualify. It’s a $30-per-month benefit to go toward broadband service,” she said. “It’s handled through your provider, so you have to contact your provider. A lot of them have low-cost options already, so someone who is already low-income may not have to pay anything to have access.”
Anyone in Mississippi who lacks adequate internet access should visit www.broadbandms.com, or call 601-439-2535 to report a location with no service. For no service, the word “internet” can also be texted to the same number.
Mississippi’s portion of federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will be determined by the number of un-served and underserved locations in the state. Data submitted by states to the FCC will be used in July 2023 to allocate the funding.
“High-speed broadband access lays the foundation for improving education, bolstering economic development, and increasing access to medical care for Mississippians,” Gov. Tate Reeves said. “This is why it is critically important that accurate maps are produced which properly recognize existing coverage and any gaps across our state.”
Itinerary for BEAM/Doty meetings
Monday, Dec. 12
12 p.m. — Jefferson County Court House, 1483 Main St., Fayette
2:30 p.m. — Natchez City Council Chamber Building, 115 S Pearl St., Natchez
5:30 p.m. — Liberty: The Harrison Building, 910 Old McComb-Liberty Road, Liberty
Tuesday, Dec. 13
8:30 a.m. — Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, 230 S Whitworth Ave., Brookhaven
12 p.m. — Wilkinson County Park Event Center, 3200 US Hwy. 61 S, Woodville
5:30 p.m. — Magnolia: New Jerusalem Baptist Church, 7092 Magnolia Progress Road, Magnolia