Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and Senator Roger Wicker helped Fulton Telephone Company (FTC) break ground on its new fiber optic broadband services, last week.

During a special ceremony at the communication company’s offices in downtown Fulton, last Wednesday, Pai and Wicker touted the importance of expanding broadband access. They called it critical to economic opportunity, job creation and education.

Both cited the event as a sign of closing the “digital divide” in places like Fulton.

“We are excited to be here and see the shovel hit the ground in Fulton concerning broadband services,” Wicker said. The senator currently serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. The committee has jurisdiction over legislation, congressional action and other matters relating to communications including broadband.

During his remarks, Pai told the small crowd gathered for the event that he grew up in a small town in Kansas very similar to Fulton.

“What I consistently hear from folks is they want to have the same opportunities that people in the bigger cities have,” Pai said. “And broadband is at the top of that list.”

FTC Vice President of Operations Christa Alexander is a fourth generation rural telecommunications business representative. She said last week’s event represents more than just a groundbreaking.

“FTC has been invested in this community for decades,” she said. “We couldn’t be more honored to have Chairman Pai and Senator Wicker here to acknowledge what we’re doing.”

FTC announced their plans to replace their copper cable platform with new fiber optic cables in January, utilizing funds provided through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service loans.

In early August, laborers contracted by FTC were boring and pulling fiber optic cables in the Dorsey and Fawn Grove areas.

FTC’s goal is to get the foundation of their fiber optic system in place. It will essentially tie into Tupelo to the west and east to Hamilton, Alabama.

Representatives with the company previously told The Times they have an ongoing waiting list for customers who want fiber optic service. The company hopes to gradually expand its broadband upgrade across its coverage area.

FTC services roughly 6,000 customers throughout Itawamba County

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