The Commission would receive, review, and administer broadband grants from the internet service providers in the state.
According to BroadbandNow, Mississippi is currently ranked 42nd and among the top ten worst states in the nation when it comes to state broadband access. However, they also report that 39.9% of Mississippians have access to fiber-optic service, which is significantly higher than the national average of 25% of consumers who have access to the same.
Federal money has flowed into the state that could be used to boost the efforts to get Mississippians better connected. Some of these funds come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.
Authored by State Representative Scott Bounds (R), the Mississippi Broadband Accessibility Act would establish a Mississippi Broadband Commission.
On the House floor, Rep. Bounds stated in the introduction of the bill that the Commission would receive, review, and administer broadband grants from the internet service providers in the state. He said the grants would be competitive grants. Any internet service provider could apply for the funds and would be technology neutral.
The Commission would be made up of 7 members. Three of the seven members would be appointed by the Governor from each of the Supreme Court districts. Another four commission members would be appointed by the Lt. Governor, but 2 of those members would be considered on the recommendation of the Speaker of the House.
Bounds explained that the Lt. Governor’s picks would be from the first and fourth congressional districts and the Speaker’s picks would be from the second and third congressional districts.
Rep. Bounds spoke with Y’all Politics following the vote, saying that over the next couple of years, Mississippi will probably have close to $1.5 billion coming from the federal government for broad band deployment and expansion to unserved areas.
Bounds said that he thinks that the federal funds designated for broadband should have “somewhere to fall” and that this commission would do just that.
On the House floor, Bounds stated that as they move forward through this process, he wants to hear from all of his colleagues regarding their concerns and suggestions.
“That’s what the House bill did today, the Senate bill does some different things, and I’m looking forward to working with my Senate counterparts and see if we can come up with a product to get broadband out to the people,” Bounds said.
You can read the full version of HB 1029 below.