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Collaboration will offer fast, affordable online access to Delta businesses, residents

ECD, AIR2Lan partner on high-speed Internet service

Got an Internet service provider? Most people would answer “yes” to that question. In the Delta though, ISPs can be tougher to find.

That’s why the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD) and AIR2LAN Inc. officials are working to make it easier for Delta residents to find Internet service. The organizations announced on Jan. 11 a joint venture that will make affordable high-speed Internet service available in the Delta. ECD has invested $250,000 in AIR2LAN to spur the broadband service company’s expansion into the Delta.

By making high-speed broadband Internet access available in the Delta, local companies will be able to compete with companies all over the world, said Bill Bynum, CEO of ECD.

“It’s up to us and others to make sure those tools are available,” he said.

Bynum said there is a significant need for high-speed broadband Internet service in the Delta, and wireless solutions hold promise for the rural, sparsely populated area. ECD has looked extensively at the telecommunications infrastructure in the Delta region, and will continue explore options such as partnerships with wire telecommunications companies and tapping into existing public infrastructure.

“I think it will take a combination of strategies to make high-speed telecommunications available throughout the region,” Bynum said. “This is just a first step.”

Jai Bhagat, AIR2LAN chairman and CEO, was excited when ECD approached AIR2LAN about providing high-speed broadband Internet services in the Delta.

“It’s a great partnership,” Bhagat said. “We’re really fortunate to have a partner like the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta to help move our business forward. We see a lot of potential in the Delta markets.”

Bhagat said because of the existing infrastructure, people in the Delta do not have fast Internet connections, and dial-up connections may not be feasible.

“I think it’s extremely important we develop the infrastructure,” Bhagat said. “You have to build this broadband highway for the economy to go.”

AIR2LAN offers high-bandwidth connections to the Internet. The company’s technology consists of two different services — fixed wireless access and wireless LAN/mobility. Fixed-wireless components consist of a wireless signal delivered to a building, a small antenna and cabling to individual computers. Wireless LAN technologies use bandwidth from sources like fixed-wireless technologies, DSL and cable. The bandwidth is then used in an office complex to provide campus mobility to users of laptops or palm devices. AIR2LAN’s fixed-wireless and wireless LAN mobility services work in tandem to provide high-speed Internet mobility.

“One of the big advantages (of using wireless technology) is that we don’t have to dig,” Bhagat said. “We go on existing antenna structures.”

City officials excited about potential

high-speed Internet access will bring

Mayor Wardell Leach of Yazoo City said, “We were elated to have been one of the first (cities chosen for broadband wireless high-speed Internet services) along with Vicksburg. We believe that it can be a great economic tool for this area and for the Delta as well. We’re looking forward to deployment of AIR2LAN in the city.”

Jimmy Heidel, executive director of the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce, is also excited about the broadband wireless high-speed Internet access will provide. In some locations in Vicksburg, Heidel said it is impossible to get online because of the terrain and the many rural areas.

“Plus, it gives you another option,” Heidel said. “I think it’ll help our industry and our economic progress a lot.”

AIR2LAN is now talking with companies that have towers in Vicksburg and Yazoo City so AIR2LAN can lease space from them. AIR2LAN will first deploy its service in the Vicksburg and Yazoo City markets. An expansion plan will be developed in additional communities in ECD’s service area in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

ECD is a community development financial institution that provides financial and technical assistance to stimulate business and community development in the Delta regions of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Bynum said the partnership with AIR2LAN is an important part of ECD’s mission in making investments that will strengthen the business infrastructure in the Delta.

“I believe there are a few things that can close the gap between the Delta and other regions,” Bynum said. “If we don’t address them the gap will widen faster.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com.


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