Leaders break ground on Southwest Mississippi broadband project

Published 12:28 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

WEST LINCOLN — Brookhaven resident Sally Doty, Director of the Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi, Franklin Telephone’s Gregg Logan and Wesley Goings and Ty James broke dirt on broadband expansion at the Zetus Fire Station on Jackson Liberty Drive Thursday. 

The project began in April of 2021 when Franklin Telephone Company submitted an application for a grant to provide internet through the National Telecommunications and Internet Administration. This federal grant was approved and Thursday marked the start of the construction phase. 

Goings, president of Franklin Telephone, said over 200 households will get access to internet service through the project. 

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“Southwest Mississippi has always played a critical role in why we serve the customers we do,” Goings said. “I’m glad to say we are breaking ground to build a network. It will start with 45 miles of fiber in West Lincoln. We hope and plan to build on our work here and will use our own funds to do so.” 

Doty said her office is working to map out the needs for the internet in Mississippi and work to bring grants and funding for internet service to happen. West Lincoln’s project will go quickly with the construction crew ready to roll. 

Construction workers with Deviney Construction wore high visibility vests and were ready to start work with a “Ditch Witch.” It is the home stretch of this specific broadband expansion project. Doty said there is more coming. 

A great deal of Lincoln County is tied to federal funding which comes with heightened responsibilities and reporting requirements. Doty said the broadband expansion is coming as she recently met with Conexon, a service provider bringing internet to rural communities, who won federal grants for Lincoln County projects. 

“We are excited to kickoff construction for this area and we are excited for what is coming. We feel the areas will build out faster. Internet is coming,” Doty said. “Fortunately for most of Southwest Mississippi, we had federal funding early. Conexon will work with Magnolia and Southwest Electric to build out to the areas. At least 40 percent has to be built out by 2024. We are excited.” 

Doty said any area not funded by federal grants for internet expansion will get funding from BEAM. Mississippi is getting $1.2 billion from the federal government and those funds will go to unserved customers first. 

NTIA liaison Ty James was present at the event. Doty said James helps navigate the BEAM office through any questions or problems they might have. 

“The federal government has made an investment to propel us to the future,” James said “Congrats to our broadband office for working on this. Franklin Telephone you have done a great job on this and you have been my grandmother’s telephone company for a long time. Thank you.” 

Doty announced Franklin Telephone was approved for a grant to expand broadband in Bude and Lower Meadville Road Thursday. The expansion would extend service to 400 households in Franklin County. She said she was very happy the project would be coming. 

Gregg Logan, Vice President of Franklin Telephone, said he was appreciative of the Franklin Telephone Staff for the long hours they have put in to make this happen. 

“We are also excited about the expansion for Bude and Lower Meadville,” Logan said. “We are going to get to turning dirt.”