2 months ago

$62.3 million to be invested in bringing broadband to Alabama’s rural areas

HAMILTON — A group of public officials and business executives gathered in Hamilton on Thursday to announce four investments by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) totaling $62.3 million. The investments are all aimed at improving broadband access in Alabama’s rural areas.

The two most substantial investments, at $29.5 and $28.2 million respectively, are 50/50 loan grant combinations being given to Tombigbee Electric Cooperative and Millry Communications.

The Tombigbee investment will affect Marion, Lamar, Fayette, Franklin, Winston and Walker counties. The Millry portion will affect Choctaw and Washington counties.

Per the USDA, the investment will total $62.3 million. The funds are aimed at creating high-speed broadband infrastructure. The USDA estimates it will improve internet connectivity for more than 8,000 rural households, 57 farms, 44 businesses, 17 educational facilities, 14 critical community facilities and three health care facilities in rural Alabama.

Two smaller investments are being made in National Telephone of Alabama (TEC) and Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative.

The TEC investment is a $2.7 million 50/50 loan-grant combination serving Colbert County. The Farmers investment is a $2 million loan that will affect unserved areas in Jackson and Dekalb counties.

Present at the announcement were U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy, Tombigbee Electric Cooperative CEO Steve Foshee, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell, along with representatives from Millry Communications, National Telephone of Alabama (TEC) and Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative.

“Beyond connecting us to our friends and family, high-speed broadband internet connectivity, or e-Connectivity, is a necessity, not an amenity, to do business, access opportunities in education and receive specialized health care in rural America today,” LaVoy said.

In March 2018, Congress appropriated $600 million to the USDA with the intent of expanding rural broadband access in rural America. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled in December of 2018 the “ReConnect” program by which rural areas could apply for the allocated resources. The USDA says they “received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding.”

The $62.3 million announced for Alabama on Thursday makes up over 10% of the total money spent by the program.

ReConnect dispenses grants, loans and grant/loan combinations to private sector providers in rural communities. The ReConnect money goes to building high-quality broadband infrastructure in areas with inadequate internet service. The USDA defines insufficient service as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.

The funds for the program originated in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. A subcommittee on which Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) sits.

Citing Congress being in session, Aderholt appeared at the announcement via a pre-recorded video. He said he was glad the program would “help close the ‘digital divide’ that isolates so many parts of rural America.”

“This program is beginning to pay dividends in rural Alabama and America,” he said of ReConnect.

“USDA also recognizes the strong leadership of Senator Shelby in making these funds available for rural communities in Alabama and across the country,” USDA Alabama Rural Development Director Chris Beeker told Yellowhammer.

“Expanding freedom FIBER broadband to residents across northwest Alabama meets a critical e-Connectivity need,” said Steve Foshee, president and CEO of Tombigbee Communications. “From students having the ability to complete their schoolwork, to our neighbors in need of receiving adequate healthcare, freedom FIBER broadband will help improve the lives and communities of rural northwest Alabama.”

Foshee also emceed the event and was praised by name by each of the other speakers for his tenacity and commitment to providing internet for his area.

Several groups of school children were bused in for the announcement and sat in the audience.

ADECA Director Boswell said to the young people in attendance, “You’ll be able to travel the world at your fingertips, no more having to go to McDonald’s for the hotspot.”

Two employees at the McDonalds nearest the site of the announcement confirmed to Yellowhammer that students from local schools frequented the establishment after school to use the internet.

Annis Jordan spoke at the event on behalf of Millry Communications. Millry provides service in Washington and Choctaw counties. Jordan said Millry had wanted to invest in high-speed broadband for the last 10 years, “but the financial analysis then and throughout the years since did not allow us to proceed until this year.”

State Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield) said a substantial part of the coverage will be in his district, and complimented Steve Foshee for his work in bringing the project to fruition.

He told Yellowhammer, “This is a big day for rural Alabama. Too many times, we’re left watching on the sidelines.”

Fred Johnson, the CEO of Farmers Telecommunications Corp, praised Aderholt in his remarks, calling the dean of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation “the one person most largely responsible for the funding of this program.”

Joey Garner, a VP of TEC, one of the companies receiving an investment, said, “We are thrilled with the opportunity to increase our fiber internet network in Alabama with the assistance of this federally-funded grant. TEC is committed to our local service areas, our customers, and our employees, and we look forward to these great opportunities and additions in 2020.”

State Rep. Proncey Robertson (R- Mount Hope) also represents areas that will be covered after the announced investment. He said in a text to Yellowhammer, “High-speed internet is as important today as electric power was in the 1930s.”

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01) said in a statement to Yellowhammer, “Today’s announcement is fantastic news for Alabama. This significant investment from USDA of $62.3 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure across rural Alabama is critical for economic development, education, healthcare, and quality of life in our state.”

One of the students in the audience was Natalie Langley. She told Yellowhammer that her house benefitted from a previous Tombigbee expansion of high-speed internet.

“It was bad before,” she said of her old internet connection, “my mom spent a lot of money on cellular data before we could get fiber.”

In remarks to reporters after the event, Undersecretary LaVoy praised the cooperation between Alabama’s public officials and businesses that brought the announcement to fruition.

“This is the model, what we have in communities like this,” he said, gesturing to those around him. “I would say Alabama is at the forefront of being able to make what we want to see happen.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

7 hours ago

Alabama voting rights activist jailed on drug charges while on bond for capital murder charge

An Alabama activist is jailed on assault and other charges.

Records show 54-year-old Kenneth Glasgow was being held without bond at the Houston County Jail on Tuesday.

109

He was arrested Saturday on charges including drug possession, assault and evidence tampering.

Police tell news outlets that Glasgow struggled with an officer who tried to arrest him after finding crack inside his pocket.

Glasgow has worked for years to register prisoners to vote inside Alabama jails and prisons.

He was charged with capital murder in 2018 after a fatal shooting but was out on bond.

He’s the half-brother of nationally known activist Al Sharpton.

 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

RELATED: Al Sharpton’s half-brother, already facing Alabama capital murder charges, arrested again

Sign-up now for our daily newsletter and never miss another article from Yellowhammer News.

7 hours ago

Hurts: Time back in Alabama going ‘really well’ — ‘Love’ for Bama will ‘never go away’

MOBILE — The Senior Bowl Week Media Day was held on Tuesday at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center, and former University of Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts had droves of reporters on hand hoping to capture yet another classic Hurts press conference. The humble Hurts did not disappoint.

To kick off his remarks, Hurts commented once again on being back in the Yellowhammer State. He, of course, played at Oklahoma this past season as a graduate transfer from Tuscaloosa. Hurts finished as the runner-up in the 2019 Heisman Trophy voting.

“I think being here and being back in this state is [going] really well. I’m having this opportunity to play in this game and showcase my abilities and show what I’m made of. I’m thankful for it, I’m appreciative of it. And I’m ready to attack it,” Hurts said.

Asked on a follow-up question to compare the Alabama and Oklahoma fanbases, he responded, “I have a lot of respect for both universities. Both have rich tradition, history. I appreciate all the support.”

380

The quarterback would later say both programs have “great coaches.”

RELATED: Hurts on Saban: ‘We always had a love for each other … our relationship will never die’

Of the universities, Hurts added, “The appreciation I have for them both, the love I have for them both, it’ll never go away. The way that they’ve accepted me, both schools, not many people can say that they’ve experienced that or they have that … so I’m thankful for it.”

Hurts said that during Senior Bowl Week and in the game on Saturday, he simply wants to “be the best version of” himself. He listed executing, learning and being a “student of the game” as priorities.

The former Tide star was also asked if he has had the opportunity to visit with the outgoing Bama players at the Senior Bowl, his former teammates Jared Mayden, Terrell Lewis, Raekwon Davis and Anfernee Jennings.

“Yes, sir,” Hurts answered. “It’s been well [sic]. Great seeing them. Good to be out there on the practice field with them again. I think they have the same approach I have in terms of maximizing this opportunity.”

RELATED: Bama’s Jared Mayden glad to be reunited with ‘natural leader’ Jalen Hurts for Senior Bowl

Hurts later quipped that he plays with “a boulder” on his shoulder rather than merely “a chip.”

Asked about the reception he expected back in the state of Alabama and what it has been like so far, Hurts commented, “It’s been pretty hectic so far — in a good way. Just being back here, a lot of love. I’m appreciative of it all.”

“I get on the elevator, one of the workers at the hotel we’re staying at — she let me have it in terms of just screaming,” he continued with a smile. “‘Jalen Hurts is really on my elevator,’ just stuff like that. That’s special to me, and I know it won’t be like that forever. I’m just soaking it all in.”

You can watch Hurts’ full interview below:

Media Day followed the Senior Bowl Week introductory press conference that was held Monday evening.

RELATED: Senior Bowl Week kicks off in Mobile as director praises ‘beloved’ Jalen Hurts — ‘He’s come so far’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Byrne: Impeachment is nothing to smile about

For three years now, the American people have been forced to endure the efforts by Democrats and the liberal mainstream media to impeach President Trump and remove him from office in the face of his clear electoral victory in 2016. They have tried everything, from a needless special prosecutor investigation, which resulted in nothing, to an Adam Schiff-coached whistleblower who admitted he had no firsthand information and relied on news articles by that same liberal media.

The farce produced just two articles of impeachment, neither of which alleges “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” as required by the Constitution. An unprecedented and totally partisan process in the House produced nothing that Democrats could even allege is impeachable.

533

Then Nancy Pelosi, after insisting for weeks that impeachment couldn’t wait and had to be done by Christmas, held onto the articles, refusing to send them to the Senate as is required. This prolonged the spotlight on her, as the ever-worshipful liberal media gushed over her political brilliance, ignoring the inconvenient fact that her strategy of forcing the Senate to adopt her preferred process for the trial completely failed.

The Constitution is clear. While the House has “the sole Power of Impeachments,” the Senate has “the sole Power to try Impeachments.” And the Constitution clearly states that each house of Congress sets its own rules. Pelosi had no right or power to dictate trial rules to the Senate. Her behavior was unconstitutional and brought embarrassment and dishonor on the House. So, I filed a resolution censoring the speaker for her inappropriate behavior.

Finally, last week as Democrats began to abandon Pelosi’s position, she relented, and the House appointed seven “managers” to present the House’s articles and “case” to the Senate. Led by Schiff, who literally made-up words for the transcript of President Trump’s call to the President of Ukraine in his first day of impeachment “hearings,” and by the bumbling and incompetent Jerry Nadler, the House managers will finally have to behave according to the rules of a truly fair process, presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the competent John Roberts, who will tolerate none of the misbehavior the Democrats repeatedly engaged in as this mess moved through the House.

Pelosi couldn’t stand to lose her spotlight, and, in one last shameful act, had a “signing ceremony” where she and other Democrats smiled and laughed as she pronounced President Trump “impeached forever” and handed out pens. Even some of her adoring fans in the liberal media said she went too far.

What now? The Senate will meet every day except for Sundays beginning at 1:00 p.m. Every senator must attend. They cannot talk or bring electronic devices. They will initially hear the House managers’ “case” for the articles of impeachment, and then the president’s lawyers will finally be allowed to present his case. Be prepared for the House managers to be longwinded and ineffective. Be prepared for the president’s team to be briefer and speak clearly to the essential points of weakness in the articles. Then senators will be allowed to ask questions through Chief Justice Roberts.

What happens next is unclear. Will the Senate dismiss the articles? Will they acquit the president? Will they unnecessarily delay things further by calling witnesses? We don’t know.

But, we do know that not a single Republican voted for these articles in the House and even a few Democrats voted against them. One Democrat changed parties over the vote. We also know there are not nearly enough senators to meet the two-thirds threshold to remove President Trump from office. And we know this will have all been a complete waste of time.

This fall, in the general election, the American people will finally have their say, as the framers of our Constitution intended. I predict Pelosi, Schiff and Nadler won’t be smiling.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

8 hours ago

Watch: Jessica Taylor touts ‘humble roots’, takes aim at ‘The Squad’ in first TV ad

Jessica Taylor, an attorney in Prattville seeking the Republican nomination for Alabama’s second congressional district, released her first television advertisement on Tuesday.

The ad, which is titled “My Squad,” is mostly composed of footage and soundbites from Taylor’s viral announcement video that garnered national attention.

The video begins by touting Taylor’s “humble roots,” and the candidate goes on to say she wants “to protect life, the Second Amendment, our borders and President Trump from socialists in the swamp”

203

Taylor’s competitors in the March 3 Republican Primary will be former Alabama Attorney General Troy King, former State Representative Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman.

According to Taylor’s campaign, the spot “will air on broadcast and cable over the next two weeks in the Montgomery media market beginning this Wednesday.”

Predictably in an ad titled “My Squad,” the spot makes references to “The Squad” while displaying images of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

The Squad” is a group of four U.S. Representatives that are new to Congress, female and represent the furthest left wing of the Democratic Party. Cortez and Omar are two members of “The Squad” that have generated particular ire among Republican primary voters.

As a response to “The Squad,” Taylor led the effort to create the “Conservative squad,” which is composed of four female conservative Republicans currently seeking election to the House.

In a statement sent to reporters that accompanied the ad, Taylor said one of her goals in Congress would be to “fight back against radical socialists like AOC and Ilhan Omar.”

The spot also continues to use the language and iconography of basketball, which Taylor grew up playing.

“Alabama, put me in the game!” proclaims Taylor to conclude.

Watch:

10 hours ago

Bama’s Jared Mayden glad to be reunited with ‘natural leader’ Jalen Hurts for Senior Bowl

MOBILE — Reunited and it feels so good. That was the sentiment expressed by one of Jalen Hurts’ former University of Alabama Crimson Tide teammates during the Senior Bowl Week Media Day on Tuesday.

Hurts, of course, played for the Oklahoma Sooners this past season as a graduate transfer from Alabama. He finished as the runner-up in the 2019 Heisman Trophy voting.

He will play for the South Team during Saturday’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, as will the Tide’s Jared Mayden, Terrell Lewis, Raekwon Davis and Anfernee Jennings.

As captured by Yellowhammer News, Mayden spoke with reporters during Media Day about how it feels being on the same field — and the same team — as Hurts once again.

173

“It means a lot,” Mayden stressed. “Especially since he’s on my team [as opposed to playing against him on the North Team]. I’m glad he’s on my team because Jalen’s a leader, a natural leader. He doesn’t have to try too hard. It just seems like it comes natural to him. I know he’ll probably have some things to say that’ll get everybody ready to play. He did it at Bama; I expect no less from him [now]. So I’m excited to get the opportunity to play with him again.”

If you missed Yellowhammer’s coverage of the start of Senior Bowl Week, read more here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn