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AT&T Mississippi responded to an investigation into their use of public funds to expand internet access in the northern part of the state.

The letter, sent to the inspector general at the Federal Communications Commission and the bureau chief at the Wireline Competition Bureau, said that statements made by the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) were inaccurate.

PSC subpoenaed AT&T to access documents regarding the $283 million the company received in federal funding to expand rural internet access across the country. AT&T said it provided the information in the letter.

AT&T admitted that 0.006 of the total locations reported to the government were later found to be inaccessible for service that complied with the second phase of the Connect America Fund (CAF II). The company said it did not mislead the government in its work.

“AT&T has done its level best to comply with the Commission’s CAF II requirements and the PSC’s assertion that AT&T has submitted false data to USAC is unfounded,” Cathy Carpinno, senior legal counsel at AT&T, said in the letter.

The letter also pointed to the “unwieldy” process of modifying data reported to the government in relation to the fund, adding that there is no rule requiring telecom companies to make corrections to the data within a certain number of days.

The northern district PCS commissioner, Brandon Presley, said in an earlier interview with The DeSoto Times-Tribune that he was not accusing the company of failing to comply with the regulations but wanted to know how many people have used the services brought to the area by the program, especially through AT&T.

“Our investigation has found concrete, specific examples that show AT&T Mississippi has reported location addresses to the USAC HUBB as being served when, in fact, the addresses are without service under their CAF-II obligations,” PSC said in a letter on Sept. 29. “AT&T Mississippi continues to have actual knowledge of these invalid submissions regarding their provision of service.”

AT&T, in its Oct. 7 letter, said that PSC’s letter was incorrect, adding that PSC actually approved AT&T’s plan to use the funds in 2021 just one day before accusing the company of knowingly submitting false information.

“The Commission, after consultation with the Staff, concludes that (Cellular South Licenses’) Plan for Utilization of the Federal Universal Service Fund in Mississippi for the year 2021 is consistent with the Commission's Orders,” PSC said in a Sept. 28 order.

Presley, who signed the Sept. 29 PSC letter accusing AT&T of misleading the public, said in an email that the company’s newest letter is “an effort to spin a defense and ignore” reality.

“There is no question, whatsoever, that Mississippians have been told by AT&T that broadband service is available when, in fact, it isn’t,” he said in the email. “I look forward to the FCC conducting a complete review of this situation.”

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