Friday, June 5, 2015

PSC's Presley Speaks in Noxapater on Natural Gas/Internet Access/Cell Service and Jamaican Lottery

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley was in Noxapater on Thursday evening for his 141st town hall meeting. Presley met with about 20 citizens in the J. W. Young Park building to update the community on several issues and to hear complaints and answer any questions.

Before taking questions, Presley spoke of the PSC’s ongoing efforts to bring natural gas service to more rural areas. Said Presley, “We’re not against propane companies – they are good business but prices are an issue. Last winter we had the coldest winter on record in 30 years with the highest propane cost in a long time. It had an effect. We know that natural gas is cheaper sometimes by as much as 60 to 75%. We are going to natural gas companies and asking them to grow the market.”

Presley said that the PSC had approved a plan with Atmos Energy to look at how to grow in these rural areas and noted that there must be planning for the future.

“This should have been done 50 years ago. We have got to do something about it now.”

Presley also informed those gathered about the PSC’s desire to increase high-speed internet service to small communities and rural areas. Noting that bringing high-speed access to rural areas is very much like the electrification process of 100 years ago.

“It is a quality-of-life issue,” said Presley. “Rural children in Mississippi should have the same access as folks in the biggest cities. We should do everything we can to bring it to rural Mississippi.… The children on that school bus this morning are going to grow up in a world that is getting faster. We talk about school reform but nothing can be more reforming for children than the ability to have internet service.”

Presley noted that we had the infrastructure in place to do something about increasing internet service and indicated that the FCC needs to see the need for more funding.

He also spoke of improving cell phone coverage in rural areas referring to the PSC’s recent call for electrical utilities to allow cell phone companies to utilize transmission towers.

Presley answered several questions from the audience including issues concerning cell phone quality particularly in the Nanih Waiya area. Other questions included:

  • The cost of extending gas lines – Presley noted that there have been some changes in upfront costs in an attempt to reduce these costs.
  • The affordability of high-speed Internet and cell phone charges – Presley indicated that internet prices are not regulated even at the federal level but that there has been some movement to consider a discount for internet service much like that use for phone bills.
  • The no call list – Presley indicated that you do not have to resubscribe to the no call list for your landline but that cell phones are not covered by the no call list and that is a change that would have to be made by the legislature.
  • The Kemper Power Plant – Presley indicated that those served by EMEPA would not likely be affected by any rate increases because of the cost of the plant.

Commissioner Presley also took the opportunity to warn consumers about scam calls such as the Jamaican lottery scam and referenced one individual who had lost as much as $350,000 to this scam. He indicated that the PSC had been working with the Green Dot Card and Publishers Clearinghouse. Scammers have asked for funds transferred through the Green Dot Card and have referenced Publishers Clearinghouse on occasion as the source of winning funds. Presley noted that this scam is coming from outside the country from Jamaica which makes it difficult to prosecute. He asked the public to be aware that these calls were originating from an 876 area code.