Two local officials briefed NEMiss.News this week on work done over the last few years to promote local economic development by improving internet service in Union County.
Sam Creekmore IV, who has represented Union County since January 2020 as the District 14 State Representative, and Bill Mattox, general manager of the city-owned New Albany Lights, Gas, and Water (NALGW) told us about the work they have done.
Because of a fluke in a law passed by the Mississippi legislature many decades ago, long before anyone dreamed of the internet, NALGW is one of three municipally owned utility companies in the state that cannot become an internet service provider (ISP). State authorities have held that, because the legislation chartering New Albany’s municipally-owned utility company did not specifically authorize NALGW to be an ISP, NALGW is still prohibited from providing internet service to its customers.
Creekmore, joined by 7th District State Senator Hob Bryan of Amory, introduced identical bills in their respective chambers during the 2022 session that would have allowed NALGW to provide internet service. Both bills died in committees.
However, State Representative Scott Bounds of Philadelphia and Representative D’Keither Stamps of Learned introduced House Bill 1029 to “create the Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi (BEAM) Act” to oversee distribution of state and federal funds in portions of Mississippi that are “unserved or underserved” by existing broadband services.” The bill passed the state House and Senate and was signed into law by the governor on April 14, 2022.
Sally Doty, a Brookhaven attorney and former state senator, was appointed by Gov. Tate Reeves to head the BEAM program, controlling the expenditure of several hundred million federal dollars for broadband expansion.
Creekmore and Mattox have made numerous visits to the governor, Director Doty, and others in their efforts to secure improved broadband services in Union County. Improved internet service is considered vital to sustaining economic development.
Last week a plan was announced that would ally NALGW with ACE Fiber of Corinth to provide high speed internet service. Under that agreement NALGW would build and own the new fiber optic cable in its service area and would lease it to ACE, which would operate the broadband internet service.ACE Fiber of Corinth, Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi (BEAM) Act, economic development, high-speed internet service, MS legislature, New Albany Light Gas and Water (NALGW), New Albany MS, Northeast Mississippi news, Union County MS