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Fiber optics project hits funding snag

SOUTHWEST MISSISSIPPI — A Texas-based company planning to install fiber-optic networks in some Mississippi counties, including Adams, says it’s still waiting on federal funding for rural area projects.

Adams County Board of Supervisors had passed a motion a year ago to support the efforts of BSI Cable to use millions in federal stimulus dollars to bring high-speed Internet to the area.

BSI Cable was originally scheduled to install the network by this month. However, the company is still waiting on the federal funding.

BSI Cable Chief Executive Gerry Locke said his company is in its second round of applications with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to receive approximately $20 million from the federal stimulus funding to bring broadband to rural areas, where the technology is rarely used because of installation costs.

BSI would provide a 20 percent match to the government’s funding with its own cash.

The company’s first application was denied last year. Locke said he would know whether BSI will receive the funding by Sept. 30.

If the second and final chance to apply for the money fails, BSI will pursue funding from other government programs, Locke said.

“We expect there will be future programs for fiber optics, and we will continue to submit until we eventually get awarded (funding),” Locke said.

Locke said BSI will not abandon the project plans to install networks in Adams, Amite, Claiborne, Jefferson and Wilkinson counties as part of the company’s rural deployment plan.

“It’s probably our No. 1 priority. We have thousands of hours invested in it,” Locke said.

Locke said fiber-optic cable networks would give Natchez residents a faster Internet connection, which could lead to much more.

“Economic development, job creation and improvement of quality of life are the three main benefits of fiber-optic networks,” Locke said.

Services such as telemedicine, next generation 911, telecommuting and distance learning would be made available with the network.

Locke said BSI has spent more than $400,000 on preparing applications and preliminary engineering for the rural deployment plan. Vendors are already lined up and BSI can start the process immediately when funding arrives.

Supervisor S. E. “Spanky” Felter and Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said they had not heard an update on the status of BSI’s project to install a fiber-optic network in Natchez, but they support the project.

“I think it’s going to be good for the county, and it’s free,” Felter said.

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