Biloxi, Gulfport advance high-speed Internet proposal for Coast

Sun Herald file

Biloxi, Gulfport advance high-speed Internet proposal for Coast

The mayors of Gulfport and Biloxi are proposing a new government agency that would operate as a public utility to finance, build and maintain high-speed Internet service for participating Coast cities and counties.

The Gulfport City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved creation of the Gulf Coast Broadband Commission. The Biloxi council also approved forming the commission, but said they want a workshop to find out more information.

Other Coast cities and counties are invited to join. Policy would be set by two-thirds vote of the membership, or unanimous vote if only Gulfport and Biloxi join.

The agreement creating the commission says it will run through Sept. 30, 2115, unless extended. The agreement is subject to state approval.

The agreement explains the commission's purpose:

"Mississippi Gulf Coast metropolitan areas are in need of infrastructure for ultra-high-speed, fiber-optic broadband Internet service that is sufficient in scope, quality, flexibility, availability and affordability for all of its citizens, governments and private businesses and industries to be able to compete in regional, national and international markets for the creation and retention of new jobs, technologies, businesses and industries and for the expansion and retention of equal opportunities for all citizens to enjoy a more prosperous, just, dignified and fulfilling life."

Without public efforts to establish the service, the agreement says, private companies lack the financial incentive to deliver the same quality service to the Coast population at large.

The agreement authorizes the commission to seek funding and acquire property toward establishing high-speed Internet service. Biloxi city attorney Gerald Blessey has said that Gov. Phil Bryant indicated $15 million from the state's BP settlement could go toward financing.

Once established, high-speed Internet service would be made available to residents and businesses through participating governments at what the agreement says would be affordable prices.