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Small towns anticipate high-speed Internet access

By the end of the year, Mississippians in dozens of small communities across the state will gain access to high-speed DSL Internet service.

BellSouth recently announced plans to expand the number of areas receiving high-speed access in the next six months by launching digital subscriber line (DSL) Internet service in an additional 43 Mississippi communities. Of the deployments, 41 (or 95%) will be in communities with populations of 15,000 or less.

“By the end of 2001, BellSouth will have invested $12 million for DSL deployment across the state,” said Patsy Tolleson, spokesperson for BellSouth Mississippi. “BellSouth feels that this cost is an investment in the future of Mississippi’s economy. Statistics tell us that Internet traffic is doubling every 100 days and the number of broadband households in the U.S is expected to grow some 700% in the next five years. BellSouth’s efforts will allow fast access and the ability to communicate and compete with anyone anywhere. The economies of our rural communities will benefit tremendously.”

Tolleson said there’s been a great demand from all consumers, both residential and business, for the DSL service, which delivers high-speed Internet access to computers with a download speed 50 times faster than standard 28.8k modems, using existing copper wiring telephone line. The service allows consumers to talk on the phone or send a fax while surfing the Internet without adding another phone line, and allows large data files to be transferred in seconds rather than minutes.

“DSL allows customers to maximize their Internet usage with faster downloads and real-time interactive multimedia capability,” Tolleson said. “It provides a dedicated line that is on 24 hours a day, seven days a week — with no dial-up wait time or busy signals. In addition, it provides the capability for customers to ‘talk and surf’ on the same line — that is talk on their phone and surf the Internet at the same time.”

For residential customers, the DSL modem will be activated on the telephone line when the DSL order is placed. An installation kit and a simple instruction guide will be dispatched, and a service technician will be available for questions via phone 24 hours a day. Professional installation will be required for business customers.

Residential customers will pay $49.95 for the standard monthly rate, while business customers will pay $79.95. Customers that subscribe to Complete Choice, or other special offers, such as the current free modem offer, will save money on their monthly rate. Customers can log onto www.fastaccess.com to view current rates and check availability in their area. To qualify, the connection pair from home or office must be within 18,000 feet of the BellSouth Central Office in the community and the facility serving the telephone line must be equipped to provide the technology, Tolleson said.

“As with any new product or service, initially a company has to work out a few kinks,” she said. “However, BellSouth began its deployment of Fast Access DSL over a year ago, and we’re fully satisfied that the service performs at the quality level BellSouth customers are accustomed to. The complaint we hear most often is that we can’t deploy the service quickly enough to satisfy the demand.”

BellSouth’s Fast Access DSL currently offers a dynamic IP address, which is considered a more secure method of Internet access.

“However, some customers would like to see a static IP DSL offering,” she said. “We’re presently rolling out a static IP option in some DSL test markets and hope to offer static IP in all of our DSL markets by the end of 2001.”

The DSL rollout plan places BellSouth as a leader among telecommunications companies focusing on providing high-speed services to smaller communities. In 2000, BellSouth began its DSL rollout, and by the end of the year, ADSL central office deployments included Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Brandon, Clinton, Gulfport, Hernando, Madison, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, Pearl and several areas in Metro Jackson, including Belvedere, Meadowbrook and Ridgewood.

BellSouth surpassed last year’s goal of 200,000 new subscribers in its nine-state area by 15,000. Its subscriber goal now is 600,000 by year-end.

John McCullouch, president of BellSouth-Mississippi, which services approximately 1.3 million access lines throughout the state, said,

“BellSouth is committed to providing high-speed Internet access to customers in smaller communities. We are working diligently toward this end so they may benefit from this vital technology.”

In the first half of 2001, DSL service was launched in a total of 19 communities with an average population of 19,252. They included Brookhaven, Cleveland, Corinth, Gautier, Greenville, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Laurel, McComb, Meridian, Natchez, New Albany, Oxford, Philadelphia, Picayune, Raymond, Starkville, Tupelo and Vicksburg.

Scheduled ADSL central office deployments for the second half of 2001 include Aberdeen, Baldwyn, Batesville, Belzoni, Booneville, Canton, Carthage, Clarksdale, Collins, Columbia, Columbus, Crystal Springs, Ellisville, Eupora, Forest, Grenada, Gulfport, Holly Springs, Indianola, Iuka, Leland, Lexington, Louisville, Magee, Monticello, Nettleton, Newton, Pass Christian, Pontotoc, Port Gibson, Purvis, Ripley, Saltillo, Senatobia, Shannon, Terry, Verona, Water Valley, Waynesboro, West Point, Winona and Yazoo City.

The average population of the 43 additional Mississippi communities being launched in the second half of 2001 is 6,112. By year-end 2001, communities with populations under 15,000 will constitute 83% of the Mississippi markets in which BellSouth offers DSL.

Tolleson said the infrastructure is already in place in 36 BellSouth central offices. Exact start dates, which vary according to the deployment schedule, have not been released.

“I applaud BellSouth for bringing high-speed access to more of our state’s citizens and especially for making it available in dozens of our less-populated communities,” said Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. “It is imperative that all Mississippians — not just those in metropolitan areas — be allowed to participate in today’s New Economy and to compete successfully by connecting to the network today, in the future and beyond.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or (601) 853-3967.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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