Community meeting focuses on Internet plan in Houston

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

HOUSTON – Most people know something about high speed internet and broadband services, but few people have the vision to realize what it can do for a rural economy.

A community meeting to gather public input and feedback to Mapping Digital Future report was held last week at the Houston Civic Center. The event was sponsored by the Mississippi State University Extension Service and saw residents from Houston, Van Vleet and Okolona attend the meeting.

“People have been introduced to technology and use it for email and internet service to their homes and businesses,” said Chip Templeton, Regional Broadband Coordinator with the Extension Service. “But I don’t people have a concept of what this can mean for economic development and business growth. Communities that develop this infrastructure and pursue this technology will be the first to benefit from it.”

Templeton compared broadband to the development of the state’s highway system and TVA bringing electricity to the region years ago.

“It first went to major metropolitan areas and then to smaller communities,” he explained. “And bigger and better roads and electricity became available, more and more people found ways to capitalize on them and business and industry expanded.”

The purpose of the May 22 meeting was to increase awareness and understanding of the broadband-also called high speed-Internet recommendation developed by the Mississippi Broadband Connect Coalition (MBCC) that will be used to help increase the availability, adoption, and access of broadband technology in Mississippi.

The discussion was also designed to gather broad-based feedback from the community to better ensure the plan reflects unique, local needs and issues.

Templeton said just as factories and business followed roads and powerlines, they are now following broadband service.

“When it comes to economic development this is a key factor in attracting industry,” said Templeton. “We are no longer a local or even a regional economy. With high-speed Internet service the world is your marketplace.”

Templeton is a member of the Extension Broadband and Adoption Team (e-BEAT), the Mississippi organization charged with attracting and implementing broadband services.

E-BEAT’s mission is to improve the lives of people and the vitality of Mississippi communities through the delivery of broadband education, information, and planning assistance.

“We are asking people to visit www.srdc.mstate.edu/ebeat for more information on all of the activities and resources of the Extension Broadband Education Initiative,” said Templeton. “This program is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and made possible by the Office of the Governor.”

For more information about local efforts contact the Chickasaw County Extension Office at (662)456-4269.