WOODLAND – NT Spark, Natchez Trace Electric Power Association's (NTEPA) fiber internet service that has been highly anticipated by many in the area, connected its first customer earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, Ryan Harrington became the first customer in the area to receive NT Spark, and he was not disappointed.

“When I moved back to Chickasaw County from living in Memphis, one of my biggest worries was 'am I going to be able to utilize the internet?'” he said. “My job requires me to be on the internet constantly, and I have been suffering through for the last two years and this is just going to make my life so much easier.”

Harrington, who lives on County Road 80 in Woodland, has been relying largely on a personal hotspot and signal booster to access the web, and this gave him an average speed of 4mb download speed, however, upon running a speed test on the NT Spark, he was shocked.

“Normally, I have been working off of a hotspot for all of my internet, and if I got 4mb downloads, and every once in a while maybe get 20, but that was a good day. Just now, we were doing a speed test and getting 400, I got 600 one time, download speeds, it's just amazing! It's going to change my work completely.”

He commended NTEPA for their work on bringing this service to the largely rural area that is Chickasaw County, a place that the main telecommunication companies won't consider touching.

“I'm just really excited that Natchez Trace decided to get in this, I know there was a lot of talk about whether they were going to be able to do it, whether it was going to be affordable, and I think the community is really going to get behind this, I hear people talking about it everywhere I go, I think it's going to be huge for this area, and I just appreciate Natchez Trace making the effort and taking the risk to do this for the community.”

NTEPA/NT Spark General Manager Shawn Edmondson was also excited to see this come to fruition, a year-long journey that has finally began to pay off.

“We have had a lot of delays getting to this point, in a new district of our electric footprint, with rain delays, equipment delays, trouble getting workers for our contract crews, but we finally got there and our members have been patiently waiting, and we are happy that we can finally hook up our first customer here in Chickasaw County.”

However, this is far from the end, and they plan to expand the service even further in the future.

“We've had great participation in our pilot project in Webster County, we're up over 1,100 active internet customers now, and now we are above the ground in a new area of our electric footprint, and this first fiber zone will go down Highway 15 South, through Woodland and Mantee to connect with our Eupora project, and it will go out Highway 8 East towards Trebloc. So, we've got a little over 1,400 eligible locations in this first fiber zone opening, so we mailed out applications and we've gotten close to 500 applications back in requesting service, so once again our members keep supporting this project, and as long as they do that, we'll be able to keep going.”

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