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Connect Americans Now aim for rural access to internet by 20

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Connect Americans Now aim for rural access to internet by 2022
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A national group is hoping their new efforts will lead to high-speed Internet access for Mississippians living in rural communities. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports.

Connect Americans Now is a national coalition that wants to improve rural access to high-speed Internet. People in Mississippi are in particular need. Over half of the state is considered rural and many people do not have access to the Internet. Microsoft, a leading partner in the group, suggests they use the frequencies on unused television channels to extend access in rural communities.

Brandon Presley is the Chairman of the Mississippi Public Service Commission. He says it's a step in the right direction.

"Our state is a very rural state. So if you have a lack of high-speed Internet service we cannot fully participate in things such as telehealth and telemedicine. And that means that rural healthcare clinics cannot be connected to some of the greatest healthcare in the United States," said Presley.

Zachary Cikanek is the national spokesman for Connect Americans Now.

"What we want to do is create a technology model that uses traditional infrastructure like fiber optics, traditional wired infrastructure like cable and traditional wireless like LTE coverage that you get on your phone.Bring that out as far as it can go but then we have to close the rest of that gap. For 80 percent of the rural population, the best connection possible right now is through television white spaces," said Cikanek.

Governor Phil Bryant says in a statement he wants the Federal Communications Commission to allow Internet companies the opportunity to utilize unused TV channels to better enable Internet access to rural Mississippians.

The goal of Connect Americans Now is to eliminate the digital divide by 2022.