Residents can help get broadband to area by simply taking speed tests
Published 3:59 pm Thursday, July 20, 2023
BROOKHAVEN — Sally Doty presented information on Broadband Expansion and Accessibility in Mississippi to the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen Tuesday night. She is a Brookhaven resident and serves as the executive director of BEAM.
Mississippi’s state legislature created BEAM as a new agency last year. Doty’s job is to determine who has service in Mississippi and who does not and generate a map showing where the service is and where federal funding is already allocated to help inform decisions.
Mississippi has 1.3 million locations for internet service across the state and 270,000 locations are unserved meaning the internet does not have a 25 megabyte per second download speed nor 3 megabyte per second upload speed.
Doty said during the COVID-19 pandemic officials realized speeds needed to be better to handle Zoom calls and other internet demands. Underserved locations are defined as having download speeds slower than 100 megabytes per second and 20 megabytes per second in upload speeds.
“Brookhaven is served for the majority of the population but some areas are still underserved,” Doty said.
Lincoln County is also underserved and in some areas unserved. Doty said BEAM is administering a $32 million grant in Lincoln County. One grant project is already being implemented in West Lincoln.
Mississippi is set to receive $1.2 billion in funding through BEAD this year. Doty said BEAM has to get service to unserved locations before tackling underserved locations.
“We work everyday to figure out how to make it all happen. Rural areas may have gig fast internet and some small towns may not. We are working out how to balance it,” Doty said. “There is a lot of federal funding attached to the county prior to BEAM. Providers have the funding but the build out is often slow. Windstream and Conexon won’t report work to the federal government until 2024.”
BEAM is working on a Digital Skills and Accessibility grant to help people improve skills in digital literacy. Residents of Lincoln County can help the process by taking a speed test at Broadband.MS.com.
People who do not have internet can call or text “No Internet.” to 601-439-2535. Doty said when people take the brief test it logs the internet speed and goes into the maps used to determine where funding is allocated.
Alderman Jeff Henning asked if it helped for a neighborhood to get together and take the test.
“It would help. Often a provider may say that one person had an old router or it wasn’t pointed in the right direction,” Doty said. “If I have 10 or 15 location data in a neighborhood it is easier for me to point to the tests.”