The Northern District Commissioner continues to advocate for broadband expansion, infrastructure investments.

On Monday, Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley (D) spoke at the Stennis Capitol Press Forum to provide an update on the happenings at the Public Service Commission.

As billions of dollars flow into the state of Mississippi from federal relief funds, Presley covered a variety of topics such as infrastructure, broadband, Telehealth, and more during the forum.

However, throughout Commissioner Presley’s speech, one theme stood out the most: it is time to fix the problems that Mississippians face. The Commissioner said that the pandemic highlighted that there is still work to be done, but he is proud of the progress that has been made.

One of the things Presley discussed was how 382,000 Mississippians will go to bed without access to community water, meaning they are on wells. One third of those will test positive for bacteria, 189 systems have asbestos pipes, and 63 water systems have lead pipes, he told the gathering. Presley said that the state needs an “all hands on deck” approach to investing in infrastructure.

“We’ve got to build for the future and get our head out of the sand as a state and as policy leaders and say ‘what are we doing to affect the lives of these children coming up?’ and how in a modern world are we going to compete?” Presley said.

The Northern District Commissioner also talked about how Mississippians should have the right to have access to broadband and Telehealth professionals. He stated that by connecting our communities to the world-wide web, it allows the state to give those in need a second chance.

BroadbandNow reported that when it comes to Mississippi internet coverage and availability, the state is currently ranked 42 in the U.S., a rise from 49th just a few years ago. Mississippi has been among the top ten worst states in the nation when it comes to state broadband access, but that is changing rapidly.

U.S. News reported in July 2021 that households with children in Mississippi had the lowest Telehealth use, at 9.9% of the population, with Nebraska (13.1%) and Iowa (14.5%) following.

Commissioner Presley said that through through the $1.8 billion in America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and federal rural connection funds, every household in the state could be connected with fiber optic cable that will aid in education and healthcare. He believes that fiber to the home is the “moonshot” and is doable with a nimble process.

In regards to the ARPA funds, Commissioner Presley said he agreed with Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann who has said that these investments should be “transformational and generational.” Presley added that it is not a matter of just spending the money, but whether or not the money is spent in a way that benefits the people of the state for years to come in meaningful ways.

Presley also said that his office would be making an announcement later this week regarding robocalls. The Public Service Commission has been actively pursuing action against illegal telemarketers who break the Do Not Call law, issuing fines and penalties in conjunction with the Attorney General’s office.