May 13, 2010 11:39:00 AM
AT&T is also launching a campaign to discourage customers who send text messages while driving through their new "It Can Wait" initiative.
"We feel that if a person gets a text message while they are driving, they can wait until they can find a place to stop to respond to that message," said Mayo Flynt, president of AT&T in Mississippi.
"We hear too much about people in vehicle accidents because they are text messaging. We want this campaign to encourage people to wait until they stop, then they can respond to that message."
In 2009, Mississippi approved a bill to make Mississippi one of more than 10 states banning young drivers from text-messaging.
The new law also adds six months to the age for teenagers to get their driver''s license.
Under the old law, teens could get a driver''s license after turning 15 and having a learner''s permit for six months to drive with adult supervision. The new law increases that to one year.
A new Mississippi driver caught texting behind the wheel can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $500. If there''s an auto accident when someone is texting, the fine can be $1,000.
The change in Mississippi''s law was pushed in a state with a large number of teens killed in auto accidents.
Mississippi has led the nation for the last decade in the percentage of teenage driving fatalities with a rate of 35 deaths per 100,000 population, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Flynt stopped at The Commercial Dispatch office last Thursday to discuss AT&T''s new campaign and changes to the company''s service.
The changes are coming through upgrades to cell towers and technological equipment.
Flynt said customers will be able to get many of the same services through wireless coverage, including Blackberries.
This is part of an ongoing expansion project by AT&T of its third generation -- or 3G -- network. The AT&T 3G network delivers to users of laptop computers and other equipment greater speeds to download information, Flynt said.
"This will enhance coverage to customers all over the state," Flynt said, adding this is only the beginning in terms of expanding coverage throughout the state.
"There are some things that are going into place in the third and fourth quarter of this year in terms of expanding coverage. We will also look at adding a fourth generation, or 4G, network.
"That is even a faster way to download to wireless equipment. The biggest constant in life is change, and we have to change with the times. Through the expansion of these networks, we can keep up with the changes," Flynt said.
Legislation AT&T was a part of this year was a bill designed to add a charge for E-911 services to pre-paid phone calling services.
"There were charges already added to people with land-line phones and cell phones. We thought it was time for pre-paid services to be added," he said.
The charge for E-911 services added to land line and cell phones ranges from 50 cents to $1, and the same will apply for pre-paid users.
Allen Baswell is a former staff reporter for The Dispatch
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