County residents are having trouble securing high-speed Internet
Published 7:00 am Friday, March 31, 2017
Recently, residents in the North Hill subdivision have complained about being restricted from receiving a high-speed Internet connection through multiple service providers. Meanwhile, neighbors within the same subdivision have Internet connections through the same companies.
When Joshua Maidenbaum bought his house in North Hill, the previous owners had a working DSL connection, he said.
However, after moving in, he was unable to have that access reconnected under his own account, Maidenbaum said.
The company said the lines were “at capacity,” he said.
“It’s an unethical and unfair situation,” Maidenbaum said.
The companies say that once one household disconnects from the line, a space will open up for a new customer, but Maidenbaum said that has yet to happen.
In the long run, he said the issue could make it hard to sell his home because he would be required to disclose the kind of Internet access available to the property; if telecommunications companies continue to say it cannot be installed, it could deter someone from purchasing the property, he said.
Left with few options, he has been battling with Internet companies and the homeowners association to find a solution.
“It really is a big issue,” Southern District Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton said. “You could compare having broadband to having electricity 100 years ago; it’s not a luxury like being able to get cable TV.”
While the PSC has no authority over this issue, Britton said the department has been communicating with companies to expand broadband services in the state.
“No one else has the authority except in Washington D.C.,” he said.
But this isn’t just a Pearl River County or a Mississippi issue, Briton said.
“Even in some metropolitan areas like Gulfport, there’s areas inside of Gulfport where it’s almost like a dead zone,” he said.
Recently, Britton was in the District of Columbia for a National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference and had the opportunity to speak with legislators about this issue, he said.
One of the most effective ways to get legislators’ attention and demonstrate the importance of the issue, is to ask how their office would run without Internet access, Briton said.
“That question has turned some heads,” he said, adding that most people said they would basically shut down without Internet.
However, people like Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn are pushing the legislature for the expansion of broadband Internet, Britton said.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have any authority and don’t have any money. If you don’t have money and authority, you’re on the sidelines,” Britton said.
So until a change can be made on the national level, Britton said all the PSC can do is act as a facilitator between residents and the telecommunication companies.
“We are placing ourselves in the position to tell them this is a need and it is important,” he said.
In the event that a resident is told they cannot be connected or if they are told they will have to be disconnected, the PSC is able to open a line of communication, Britton said.
“The companies will communicate with us, and we will continue to work with people on this because it is such a big issue,” he said.
Complaints can be filed to the PSC at https://www.psc.state.ms.us/Complaint/ or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.