JASPER — The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition (ARBC) announced Thursday morning that a fiber-based high-speed internet network will be installed in 2020 to serve the town of Jasper and the surrounding community.
The internet services on the network will be provided by Mississippi-based technology company C Spire. In a first of its kind of partnership, C Spire will contract for a portion of Alabama Power’s fiber infrastructure.
C Spire is now the newest member of the ARBC.
Senator Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Jasper Mayor David O’Mary, Energy Institute President Seth Hammett and Alabama Power Vice President Mark Crews joined C Spire CEO Hu Meena on stage for the announcement. Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) was mentioned by each speaker as a crucial member of the team that made the project happen, but she was not in attendance for the announcement.
O’Mary remarked that after taking office three years ago he set out to figure out the best way to improve his town. He said that many towns the size of Jasper run the risk of becoming “tumbleweed towns” unless they find ways to innovate. O’Mary sought the advice of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who O’Mary believed was setting the model for how to run an Alabama city.
Battle counseled O’Mary that the single-most effective thing O’Mary could do is take care of his town’s technology. That advice focused O’Mary on bringing high-speed internet access to his community.
“This is a day of significance … it will pay dividends past our time,” O’Mary stated.
In his speech, Greg Reed said his goal was to “provide broadband to every piece of our great state” adding, “[W]e can’t just focus on interstate areas.” He cited a trucking business almost leaving his district because the modern demands of the trucking industry demanded a technological infrastructure that the area lacked.
Reed praised his colleagues in the legislature for passing HB 400 and SB 90, which he maintained made the creation of Jasper’s new broadband network financially feasible for the companies involved. He mentioned by name State Senator Clay Scofield’s (R-Guntersville) leadership on the issue.
Alabama Power’s Mark Crews said, “One way we continue to enhance our electric infrastructure is through using additional fiber technologies to help maintain and improve reliability.”
He added that the deployment of fiber technologies within their network opens up the possibilities of partnerships like the one with C Spire.
Alabama Energy Institute President Seth Hammett praised recent legislation that legalized running broadband lines over existing infrastructure.
“Broadband is as important as electricity was at one time,” Hammett concluded.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95