Amendment on November ballot needed for broadband expansion, county leaders say

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 5:45 PM CDT
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ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WSFA) - County leaders gathered in Orange Beach this week for their annual convention. This is the Association of County Commissions of Alabama’s first in-person convention without COVID-19 precautions.

Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the association, says leaders are focused on moving their counties forward in a post-pandemic environment.

“Better access, whether it’s virtually, whether it’s making adjustments in the times that we meet, utilizing social media better,” said Brasfield.

Brasfield’s examples require internet access as broadband expansion continues to be a priority for county leaders.

“Counties can evaluate perhaps using some of their ARPA money to supplement the expansion of broadband into areas that will not be covered by the state’s program,” said Brasfield.

Counties received over $954 million in ARPA funding. To continue using funds for broadband expansion, Brasfield says voters need to take action.

“There is a small constitutional problem with counties being able to give this funding directly to businesses,” he said.

He says if people vote yes for Amendment Two on November’s ballot, counties will be able to provide funding directly.

“We’re probably looking shortly around the beginning of 2023, to have that authority in hand from the constitutional amendment, assuming it’s ratified, and get getting ready to start with that with the process at that point,” said Brasfield.

There is a state program in the works to provide more money for broadband expansion. That timeline has an end date of 2026.

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