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$53.5 million awarded for ‘Middle-Mile’ broadband service across 24 Alabama counties

On Tuesday, Governor Kay Ivey awarded nearly $53.5 million to expand high-speed internet across Alabama in yet another milestone of the state’s longstanding effort to bridge the digital divide for rural areas.

The grant awarded to the Alabama Fiber Network, a coalition of electric and generation/transmission cooperatives, will help develop the second phase of the state’s “middle-mile” broadband network deployment. The project will impact 24 Alabama counties.

Middle-mile projects are designed to fill the gaps in broadband expansion to make it more cost-effective and less labor intensive for providers to extend broadband services to businesses and households in the state.

“This project will add approximately 1,095 miles of high-speed middle-mile broadband for our communities, and it will connect approximately 120 community anchors, like educational institutions, medical facilities, local government offices and police and fire departments to this service,” said Governor Ivey.

“Just as important, it puts us closer in Alabama to ensuring that everyone has access to this fundamental service.”

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This latest grant under the Alabama Anchor Institution/Middle-Mile Program will provide high-speed connectivity in Baldwin, Coffee, Colbert, Covington, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Franklin, Hale, Jefferson, Lee, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, Mobile, Montgomery, Perry, Russell, Tuscaloosa and Walker counties.

The project will bring more than 7,500 unserved businesses and residences within five miles of high-speed internet connectivity. Funding for this latest middle-mile project came from an allocation from the state’s share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) will administer the program through its Alabama Digital Expansion Division. The Division was established by Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature to focus on broadband expansion in the state.

RELATED: Ivey awards $188 million for ‘Middle Mile’ broadband projects across Alabama

“This grant phase is another giant step in the long, but attainable process of providing high-speed internet to every corner of the state,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “I commend the Alabama Fiber Network for this cooperative effort and their major role in this venture. I appreciate the confidence that Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature has shown in ADECA by entrusting us with this life-changing program.”

The Alabama Fiber Network is made up of electric cooperatives Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative, Covington Electric Cooperative, Cullman Electric Cooperative, Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Cooperative, North Alabama Electric Cooperative and Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, as well as the generation/transmission cooperative PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.

The network will be completed much quicker than a typical build for a network of this size and scale, according to the AFN. At full buildout the Alabama Fiber Network will be a 5,000-mile, multi-terabit middle-mile network, and one of the most comprehensive state based middle-mile networks in the United States.

With ongoing projects and meticulous oversight by lawmakers, including the ARPA committee’s plans for additional meetings and reports, Alabama is on track to meet its goal of providing comprehensive broadband connectivity.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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