I am proud to be part of the AT&T team in Mississippi. Each and every day, the men and women who work for AT&T and call Mississippi home are doing the hard work that matters to Mississippians, deploying high-speed infrastructure and extending connectivity to communities across the state.
Having said that, you may have heard that questions have been raised related to our participation in a federal program focused on rural connectivity.
We are in full compliance with the requirements of that program. The law requires it. Indeed, just last week, the Mississippi PSC unanimously certified our plans related to our participation in the program, finding that they were consistent with the law and with FCC requirements. And further, the data we report related to that program is subject to strict audit and compliance measures by the federal government.
In fact, we met all previous milestones in this federal program and are ahead of schedule on our remaining build requirements in Mississippi. With that momentum, we are confident we will exceed the final federal target of making high-speed services available to more than 133,000 previously unserved or underserved, rural Mississippi locations by the end of this year.
Our team is focused on work that matters to Mississippians, and the more than 2,200 men and women who work for AT&T and call Mississippi home do an incredible job, closing the remaining connectivity gap and keeping communities connected.
For families and educators dealing with school closures, this work matters.
For businesses that rely on connectivity to meet their customers’ needs, to create jobs and to be successful, this work matters.
For first responders who are keeping our communities safe and healthy, this work matters.
For communities across Mississippi, this work matters, and it is work that is fueled by the hundreds of millions of dollars we invest in our wired and wireless networks each year in Mississippi – in fact, we invested nearly $750 million from 2017-2019 alone.
Of course, despite the hard work being done by our team, we recognize the gaps in connectivity and service adoption in Mississippi cannot be fixed by us alone.
As a result of the investments from cable providers and traditional telecom providers, to wireless providers and now the electric cooperatives, there are more options for service in Mississippi.
It is also important to recognize that while investments are closing the remaining digital divide, the benefits of high-speed broadband connectivity can only be achieved if Mississippians actually subscribe to the services available to them. No matter the product, service, or provider, data shows that there is a sizeable gap between access to high-speed Internet and consumer adoption of those services. But state and local leaders can help by providing valuable insight into what is actually keeping their residents from subscribing to broadband, whether it be an issue of age, household income, digital literacy issue or lack of access to equipment. This information is critical when addressing each community’s unique needs.
Without question, there is a lot of important work to do, and posturing in the media does not increase connectivity or adoption in rural Mississippi.
Doing the hard work of deploying fiber, enhancing wireless infrastructure, and installing in-home connections is what makes a difference for Mississippians.
For our part, we will continue to work alongside Mississippi’s many other broadband providers to do the work that matters and close the connectivity gap in Mississippi.