County secures $4M broadband grant
Madison County is receiving over $4 million from the state to provide broadband internet to homes in the rural northeast part of the county currently unserved.
Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi (BEAM) is the state office created to administer over $1.2 billion in federal monies that were part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act passed by Congress in 2021.
Supervisors on Friday were given an update by Comcast, the provider selected by supervisors to install the broadband network.
“We feel that we are moving forward at a very good, productive pace,” Mike Mitchell of Comcast told supervisors.
Mitchell said the county received a grant of over $4 million from BEAM but they are hoping to get an additional amount of about $800,000 to cover the costs the county would have to incur.
The number of homes and businesses the project was going to impact was about 3,175, but Mitchell said that number has increased to 4,433.
Mitchell said of the $19 million cost of the project, Comcast is covering $4.8 million, with a county match of up to $10 million. They are continuing to pursue grant opportunities.
Madison County allocated $10 million of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the project.
Mitchell said once they finalize details with the BEAM office they will continue with the buildout, though he noted a lot of work has been taking place behind the scenes.
He said Comcast has invested $2.2 million to date, with the purchase of land on East Peace Street in Canton for a building to house the electronics, as well as design and permitting for the fiber network.
“All engineering and design has been completed,” he said. “Permit applications have been submitted.”
Mitchell asked supervisors and specifically Board Attorney Mike Espy for assistance to expedite the approval process with the city of Canton for their building permit.
District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin asked if Comcast was still going to meet the September 2025 deadline to be online and operational.
Ronnie Colvin, senior director of external affairs for Comcast, said they hope to get half of the network completed this year and the other half next year.
He said this project will primarily be for those that are currently unserved with some that are underserved.
According to a broadband audit from BEAM, Madison County currently has 4,344 unserved homes and 1,139 underserved homes. There are 37,092 (87.1 percent) that are served.
Griffin said they already are looking at Phase II of the project in western Madison County but want to get done with this phase first.
Colvin asked supervisors to get a boundary map and they could look at areas and see which homes are eligible and they can work together with a plan moving forward.
District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks represents the area for Phase 2 and said a lot of those are underserved.
He said there was a lot of “fill-in” needed in places such as south of Canton and on the west side.