Governor Kay Ivey announced major broadband news for rural Alabama at a press conference in her hometown of Camden on Monday.
Ivey revealed that a dozen entities from across the state will be receiving a portion of a massive $188,453,905 grant aimed at connecting some of the more isolated areas in Alabama with high speed, reliable internet.
The project upon completion will be made up of more than 4,000 miles of what the governor is calling “middle-mile” projects which will help fill the gap in broadband expansion to make it more affordable and less labor intensive for providers to extend services to unserved businesses and households in the state.
“Rural Alabama, like so many other places in the state, is in need of increased access to high-speed internet, and today we are taking a significant stride in our journey toward full broadband access,” said Ivey.
“These middle-mile projects will be extremely beneficial to our anchor institutions, and it puts us in a desirable situation where the ‘last mile’ projects that will supply broadband service to businesses and households are more economical and attainable.”
Anchor institutions include schools, hospitals, medical facilities, and government and public safety buildings. Many are located on or near the middle-mile routes and more than 790 will be served by the projects.
Representative Terri Sewell noted the importance of reliable internet for rural areas.
“In the 21st century, access to affordable, high-speed internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and one that many Alabamians have gone without for far too long,” said Sewell. “I was thrilled to help make this funding available through the American Rescue Plan and I applaud Governor Ivey and Director Boswell for making these investments.”
“I will continue working to ensure that this funding reaches those who need it most.”
ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell, whose department will be administering the funding through its Alabama Digital Expansion Division, said that his department is pleased to be a a part of the broadband expansion effort.
“I am grateful to Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature for having the confidence to entrust ADECA with this all-important program,” Boswell said.
The twelve internet service providers awarded grants are:
Central Alabama Electric Cooperative
$2.69 million to provide middle-mile infrastructure along 38 miles in Autauga and Elmore counties to include 33 anchor institutions.
Coosa Valley Technologies Inc.
$7 million to provide 110 miles of middle-mile connections in Calhoun, St. Clair and Talladega counties affecting 17 anchor institutions.
Cullman Electric Cooperative
$1.46 million to install middle-mile connections in various areas of Cullman County to include 15 anchor institutions and cover 106 miles.
Farmers Telecommunications Corp.
$21.6 million to provide two middle-mile fiber routes in Blount, Etowah, Jefferson and Marshall counties totaling 155 miles and connecting 189 anchor institutions.
Alabama Fiber Network
$128.8 million to install five middle-mile projects totaling 1,776 miles and connecting 438 anchor institutions in Bibb, Butler, Chilton, Choctaw, Conecuh, Dale, Dallas, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lowndes, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox counties. Alabama Fiber Network is a coalition of eight rural electric cooperatives.
$6.3 million for four projects to provide middle-mile connections over a 1,169-mile route in Bibb, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Greene, Lowndes, Macon, Monroe, Randolph and Washington counties. The projects will affect 24 anchor institutions.
Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp.
$5.25 million to provide more than 20 miles of middle-mile infrastructure in the Courtland area in Lawrence County and affecting 16 anchor institutions.
$411,341 to provide a middle-mile project in Blount County totaling 12.4 miles and impacting 21 anchor institutions.
$7.3 million for a middle-mile project in rural southeastern Houston County involving 167 miles and connecting eight anchor institutions.
Tombigbee Electric Cooperative
$757,479 to provide a middle-mile project of nearly 50 miles in Winston County and affecting 22 anchor institutions.
$4.2 million to provide about 64 miles of middle-mile project in Butler, Lowndes and Montgomery counties including four anchor institutions.
$2.52 million for a middle-mile project in Bibb, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry, Sumter and Wilcox counties to include the cities of Selma, Demopolis and Eutaw and spanning 620 miles. The project will include six anchor institutions.
Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.