New Albany, MS- A church whose congregation was first formed a century and three-quarters ago was the site of a Monday night meeting about a major modern phenomenon: the Internet.
About 90 people assembled at the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church near the Union-Tippah County line for a discussion with Northern District Public Service Commissioner (PSC) Brandon Presley about Internet service quality and other public service problems. It was Presley’s 156th “Town Hall” meeting during his service on the PSC. He was first elected in 2007.
“There is no problem in rural Mississippi that is worse than poor Internet service and poor cell phone service,” Presley said. He said the need for reliable Internet service in rural Mississippi is comparable to the need for electric power that existed before the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was formed in 1933. Nobody present Monday night — mostly residents of northern Union County and southern Tippah County — disagreed with Presley’s assessment.
Presley said 70% of homework assigned in today’s high schools and colleges is done via the Internet, and that the many students without reliable high-speed Internet service are in a very difficult position. With more and more college work being done via the Internet the disadvantages experienced by rural Mississippians are increasing day-by-day.
Those attending the Ebenezer meeting were asked to furnish contact information and information about their problems to PSC staff members. This further enables the PSC to pressure internet providers to make service improvements in the region.
“We can’t fix this overnight,” Presley said as he explained some of the impediments to getting improved Internet service in rural Mississippi, but, he said, “People living in rural areas deserve to have the same quality of Internet service as those living in big cities.”
After speaking for about 20 minutes, Presley took questions from the audience. The questions quickly made apparent that poor Internet service is not the only modern convenience which rural residents find unsatisfactory.
Questions directed the discussion to the problem of poor cellular telephone service in rural areas. Some said they had contracted for cell phone service, which had been relatively good at first but then got much worse. The commissioner said that cell service tended to deteriorate when more customers were added but cell phone companies failed to increase service capacity.
Presley pointed out that new towers being built in rural areas did not necessarily mean cell phone service was going to improve. Towers are built by private companies who are not in the business of providing cell phone service but who build towers in order to sell antenna space on the towers to cell phone companies. Tower builders and owners are not regulated by the PSC. He said the PSC informs the tower owners about needs for cell service in various areas, but that it is up to CSpire, AT&T, etc. to actually install equipment on the towers to provide better service to their customers.
Others at the Ebenezer meeting were concerned about the lack of natural gas service. Presley told of one elderly resident on a fixed income in a nearby county who was paying $1,000 a month for propane gas to heat her home. He said natural gas, had it been available to her, would have cost about one-fourth as much as propane for the same amount of usage. He told of efforts the PSC is making to make natural gas service more available in rural parts of Mississippi.
Presley said residents can help the PSC in its work by informing the commission about problems and deficiencies in services.
The website for the Mississippi Public Service Commission is: http://www.psc.state.ms.us/
The telephone number for Presley’s office in Nettleton is 662-963-1471.
His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org