Technology soon to reach rural areas

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A couple of announcements out of the state capital recently might give hope to residents of rural Mississippi that the technology taken for granted in urban areas may finally be accessible where they live.

The first came in the form of a new program that will use communications technology to connect first responders to medical help in an emergency.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center will get a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a pilot project to train rural first responders to use a statewide communications system to get long-distance help for patients.

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Firefighters and law enforcement officers usually are the first to see accident or storm victims, Dr. Damon Darsey, medical director for the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services, said in a news release about the grant.

“The program will allow these people to get training on how to collect data and communicate findings early in the process—to provide the best care possible, but also communicate that care downstream so that whatever hospital the patient goes to will have the best information possible,” he said.

The second bit of news involves upcoming auctions of frequencies by the Federal Communications Commission to expand broadband Internet service to rural areas.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission urged utilities, telecommunication companies, and entrepreneurs to take advantage of $99 million in grant funds being made available over the next 10 years by the FCC. 

The commission said it will certify the eligibility of companies participating in the funding and assisting in administering the funds.

The FCC identified 18,000 locations nationwide (see a map at eligible for these funds.

“Internet is the electricity of the 21st century, and we at the PSC are dedicated to expand broadband service to all parts of Mississippi, no matter the location, “ PSC Chairman Brandon Presley said in a statement.

Electric service was commonplace in cities well before wires were strung into the countryside in the past century.

The improvements in communications technology seem to follow that slow path into rural America, but at least the pace is improving.