Access to high-speed internet is necessary for virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives.  It impacts regional commerce, education, health and public safety, cultural enrichment, government operations, and aids in countless conveniences and efficiencies.  It is as critical to the future of economic growth as access to a telephone.

Building and maintaining a high-speed, high-capacity, affordable broadband network presents numerous important and positive effects for the state of Alabama. That is where the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act comes into play.

On March 28, 2018, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act due to the importance of high-speed broadband service availability throughout Alabama (rural and centric) for economic development, education, health care, and emergency services, among other areas. The Act established the AL Broadband Accessibility Fund which provides grants for service providers to supply high-speed internet services in rural areas or communities with 25,000 people or less.

On May 30, 2019, Governor Ivey signed Act #2019-327 which provided amendments to change the definition of an “unserved (rural) area”, increase the percentage of project costs that might be funded through the Act, and to broaden the permitted use of other federal and state support, including loans and grants, in projects receiving grants under the Broadband Act.

Then, in July 2019, Gov. Ivey awarded more than $1.14 million in grants — the second round of awards presented by Gov. Ivey under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund — to provide access to high-speed internet in several Alabama communities. In the latest round, some providers were awarded more than one grant to provide service in different areas.

“Alabama’s rural residents not only want but need to be on a superhighway when it comes to technology,” Governor Ivey said after announcing the grants. “Access to high-speed internet in our rural areas will open the way to improved educational opportunities, economic development projects and better health-care services. I am very proud to award these grants to expand access to affordable high-speed internet in these communities.”

Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs director Kenneth Boswell said, “Like public water and sewer services, high-speed internet is an important piece of infrastructure that people, especially in urban areas, can take for granted.”

Projects Eligible for Grants

Projects eligible to receive Broadband AL funding grants include the following.

  • Projects that specifically encourage broadband deployment in unserved areas throughout the state.
  • Middle Mile projects will also be eligible to receive broadband funding. Projects that are considered “middle mile” include those where the applicant demonstrates that the project will provide broadband infrastructure in order to enable service providers to offer broadband service to end user and demonstrates the need for greater broadband speeds, capacity, or service which is not being offered by an existing service provider.
  • Projects to provide broadband service to hospitals, public schools, public safety outlets, or economic development sites in rural areas that do not meet the definition of an unserved area but otherwise meet the requirements for funding.
  • Grants issued under subdivisions.

Where the Stats Stand

According to Broadband Now, 86 percent of the state of Alabama is currently covered with broadband. Some more stats for the state:

In terms of broadband speed availability:

  • 4 percent of Alabamians have access to wired broadband 25mbps or faster
  • 6 percent of Alabamians have access to broadband 100mbps or faster
  • 3 percent of Alabamians have access to 1 gigabit broadband

In terms of wired coverage:

  • 5 percent of Alabamians have access to wireline service
  • 0 percent of Alabamians have access to fiber-optic service
  • 2 percent of Alabamians have access to cable service
  • 1 percent of Alabamians have access to DSL service

More quick statistics:

  • There are 156 different internet providers throughout the state of Alabama.
  • There are 561,000 people in AL without access to a wired connection capable of 25mbps download speeds.
  • There are 511,000 people in AL that have access to only one wired provider, leaving them no options to switch.
  • Another 221,000 people in AL don’t have any wired internet providers available where they live.

Information Transport Solutions, Inc., a Uniti company, supports and manages broadband networks. We pride ourselves on being professionals in setting up and maintaining networks designed to deliver reliable and continuous wireless service. ITS’ wireless networks can range from a specific area of your building to covering your entire campus or municipality. Contact us to learn more.

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