PSC: Centennial must serve Shaw area

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 17, 2004

The residents of the Shaw and Blackhawk communities may be getting their wish for phone service sooner than they anticipated.

At Wednesday’s Public Service Commission meeting in Baton Rouge, the commission ordered Centennial Wireless to provide service in the remote area of southern Concordia Parish.

The order was in conjunction with the PSC’s decision to grant Centennial access to the federal Universal Service Fund that finances telephone service in rural areas.

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Commissioner Foster Campbell, who represents Concordia Parish in District 5, said the communities should have phone service within a year.

Campbell said the rates should be competitive if not cheaper than Centennial’s current rates throughout Louisiana. And, many people in Concordia Parish already subscribe to Centennial Wireless.

But Jessie Lee, like many other residents from that unserviced area, were really hoping for landlines instead of cell phone service and said Thursday she was &uot; a little disappointed.&uot;

Lee said she has tried to use the small cell phones at her house before and they did not work because they did not have enough power. That is why she and many other Shaw residents still rely on old analog bag phones.

She could not use the smaller phone in her home and therefore could not receive incoming calls.

&uot;The reception on them is bad,&uot; Lee said. &uot;If we have to go to cell phones, I would definitely think we would have to have another tower.&uot;

But Lee said she would take improved cell phone service over what she has now.

&uot;They (Centennial) are going to take care of what they need,&uot; Campbell said.

Campbell said he did not know for sure how many towers it would take to service the area but did say it would cost $500,000 to put in a cell phone tower.

He also said the company will provide wireless Internet service to that area but did not know any other details.

&uot;We’re confident the service those people are going to receive is going to be a good, standard service,&uot; said Bill Robertson, executive assistant to Campbell.

According Robertson, the fund would give Centennial access to about $12 million per year.

Robertson said the Federal Communications Commission requires state commissions to &uot;bless&uot; any wireless applications to the fund, which the Louisiana PSC has done.

Robertson said it is not a done deal, because the FCC must grant Centennial access to the fund. He said Centennial would be the first wireless company in Louisiana to get access to the fund.