Alabama getting more money for broadband expansion

Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 3:28 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2022 at 7:06 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama’s broadband expansion fund is getting a big boost of $6 million to enhance the internet in rural areas.

The money comes from the bipartisan infrastructure plan and there are specific uses for it. However, not everyone is sold on the plan.

Unlike past allocated funds, this money is strictly for planning and digital equity for all 67 counties. To determine the best course of action, state leaders are planning to hold public meetings in every county.

According to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Alabama will have $5 million to fund various activities, including:

  • Identifying unserved and underserved locations
  • Planning and capacity-building of Alabama’s broadband office
  • Conducting surveys of unserved, underserved and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to high-speed Internet service adoption
  • Creating a more holistic representation of Alabama’s barriers to broadband adoption

Alabama will receive nearly $1 million to improve digital equity across the state for:

  • Creating a state digital equity plan
  • Outreach, meetings and listening sessions with stakeholders, organizations and representatives of communities disconnected from high-speed internet service
  • Analysis of the impact of digital equity on Alabama’s outcomes for economic development, education, health, civic and social engagement, and delivery of essential services

“If you were building a house and didn’t have a budget, can you imagine how hard that would be? But if you do have a plan, you have an opportunity to spend those dollars in a very efficient way in making sure that our citizens are covered and have access,” said Kenneth Boswell, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

More money is expected to follow this planning grant. With Monday’s announcement, Boswell says Alabama has spent a total of $64 million on broadband this year alone.

“One hundred projects. When they’re completed it will give 46,000 residents access to internet throughout the state of Alabama,” he said.

Sandy Pouncey spoke with WSFA 12 News in January 2022. She started the Facebook group “We Want Reliable Internet in Beauregard, Alabama” and says the internet has not improved in her rural town.

“Every once in a while I pick up a 5G tower out of Columbus, Georgia, and it will totally slow down my internet service. It won’t hardly even work at all,” said Pouncey.

The schedule for the public broadband meetings is available on ADECA’s website. This week’s meetings will take place in Black Belt counties. A spokesperson for the department says they “are working right now on scheduling another round of meetings for early in the new year.”

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