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Selma broadband project nearing completion

The tornado that struck Selma on Jan. 13 devastated parts of the historic central Alabama town. But even amid the ongoing recovery from the storm, Alabama Power is nearing completion of a major upgrade of Selma’s power distribution infrastructure.

The project is part of Alabama Power’s continued expansion of fiber to cities, towns and rural areas throughout its service areas statewide.

“The number of customers and communities we are able to impact continues to grow,” said Arnab Ghosal, Alabama Power’s general manager of Grid Information and Connectivity. “Enhancing our power grid is the first priority, but we’re also creating other opportunities that come with enabling and expanding broadband capabilities.”

The project entailed installation of approximately 50 miles of fiber connected to more than 1,000 power poles, including more than 300 poles that have been replaced or upgraded to accommodate the new fiber. With Alabama Power personnel and private contractors on the project, the work began in early 2022 and will continue into 2023, according to Grant Rogers, Alabama Power Connectivity supervisor.

“Poles have to have space for fiber,” Rogers said. “So, the process of upgrading poles includes enhancing the automation of our delivery system.

“Among other things, that allows us to segment customers into smaller blocs, so that an outage in any particular area will affect fewer people.”

The completed fiber project will address what Rogers called “three buckets” of need and opportunity:

  • Substantial investment in updating and enhancing the power grid, in keeping with Alabama Power’s commitment to expanding access to broadband for all of its customers;
  • Enhancing communications among Alabama Power’s core service operations in Selma, including business offices, substations and other key facilities;
  • Creating opportunities for economic development with transmission fiber that provides commercial and industrial customers with state-of-the-art connectivity to larger communities such as Birmingham, Montgomery and Atlanta.

“Where we have fiber availability, we look to find partners to deliver internet service,” Rogers said. “It’s another way of using our infrastructure to better serve business customers and the community at large.”

The January tornado delayed completion of the Selma fiber project, Rogers said, with about 7 miles of fiber requiring reinstallation and hundreds of poles replaced in the storm’s aftermath.

Once the improvements are fully operational, the benefits will be apparent.

“The impact on Selma is improvements to the electric infrastructure and the opportunities that supports,” Rogers said. “From a power delivery perspective, that will play into increased reliability and resiliency of the grid.

“It will help us keep the lights on.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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