The Mississippi Gulf Coast’s broadband future is looking $15 million sunnier. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, state leaders are hoping to boost private broadband investment to help the coast catch up with its competition.
Governor Phil Bryant says the $15 million will come from oil spill restoration funds Mississippi will receive under the Restore Act. He says beefing up the coast’s broadband capabilities was one of the first priorities identified by the advisory commission he formed to look at ways to spend this funding.
"If you look at business, education, health care - all of it's now workin gwith broadband," he says. "The capability of being able to transfer information and big data now along a broadband connection is critical.
"The Mississippi Gulf Coast is not where we need to be," he continued. "If you look at surrounding states, they've been able to put that broadband capability there, and we are going to meet that."
Howard Page of the Steps Coalition says one element of the Restore Act is economic recovery. He thinks boosting the coast's broadband is a good way to do that.
"I think this is really great that we're looking at expanding this kind of infrastructure to the coast," he says. "There's a real opportunity here for business development and to make the coast have a significant comparative advantage to other areas as far as attracting business."
Newly elected Biloxi mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich says strong broadband capabilities are critical for bringing in new development.
"What's your bandwidth? That's one of the first things people ask," he says. "If I'mm going to put 10 jobs here, support jobs or even R&D jobs, it's very important."
Governor Bryant says the funding will be used for incentives for private investment, which he hopes will total another $30 million to $40 million.
A slide shows the current high-speed broadband availability on the Gulf Coast, with the Mississippi coast significantly behind neighbors in Louisiana and Alabama.