NE Sparc celebrates completion of fiber construction

Published 8:30 am Saturday, April 2, 2022

North Mississippi is now more connected and secure than ever. North East Mississippi Electric Power Association celebrated the completion of fiber installation across the region providing internet and electricity to thousands of customers.

“None of us were here 80 some odd years ago when North East announced that everybody in the territory had electricity, but that was a historic day,” said Brandon Presley, Northern District Public Service Commissioner. “This is also a day that is important and historic. North East is the first multi-county system in the state to provide service to all their members.”

North East’s fiber construction project began after the Mississippi Public Utilities staff awarded $65 million in grant money to 15 electric cooperatives in July 2020 and the state Legislature passed The Mississippi Electric Cooperatives Broadband COVID-19 Act earlier that same year. The money became available after the state was awarded federal CARES Act funding.

The electric cooperatives will match the grant money with $65 million to provide a total of $130 million for expanding broadband access across the state.

The project was anticipated to take 40 months but was instead completed in 24 months, spending $46 million — $2 million under the set budget— and creating approximately 2,000 miles of fiber.

NE SPARC is now available in all of the coverage zones, bringing the option for broadband to all North East Mississippi Electric Power Association members. Fiber is the fastest, most reliable internet connection available. NE  SPARC offers speeds of up to 1 gigabit, which is enough bandwidth to power your whole business or household. 

Fiber internet from NE SPARC has now passed 28,500 locations with 7,278 customers who are using the service and another 360 customers who have signed orders and are waiting to be connected. 

“It’s astonishing just to go through some of these numbers of what we’ve done in 24 months and it hasn’t been easy,” said CEO Keith Hayward.

Hayward recounted meeting a customer who told him that she felt safer after getting fiber connected to her home.

NE Sparc Chief Operating Officer Randall Abel acknowledged that the project seemed daunting at the beginning, but NE Sparc had a well-formed team committed to getting internet to Mississippians as fast as possible.

“I was basically tasked with putting together the team of people that were involved with every aspect of the process from customer service to marketing to primary construction…,” said Abel. “We’ve had a great team of individuals we could not have done it without.” The COO specifically named customer service representatives Kristy Garcia and Brittany Mario were instrumental in the process.

“They were on the phone constantly with our customers and not only were they answering questions, but they were selling service and setting orders,” Abel said. “There are a whole bunch of people that went into the project. I may be the face of the project but I’m certainly not the only person.”

NE SPARC will begin the process to serve parts of Pontotoc and Union counties now that their service territory is complete.