Legislative broadband champions and a diverse group of broadband stakeholders gathered at the State Capitol on Thursday to celebrate Gov. Kay Ivey’s ceremonial bill signing of Senate Bill 215.
The legislation, titled the Connect Alabama Act, creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority to oversee broadband expansion; establishes the Alabama Digital Expansion Division within ADECA to develop a statewide connectivity plan; and creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Finance Corporation to help fund broadband projects.
“The Connect Alabama Act is a transformational piece of legislation that I am proud to support and sign into law,” noted Ivey. “This landmark new law ensures that Alabama will expand much-needed broadband access and further position Alabama for a robust 21st Century economy, education system and healthcare system.”
Joining the governor for the ceremony were bill sponsors Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, representatives from the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition and the Connect Alabama Steering Committee, as well as members of the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority. The authority hosted an official meeting earlier in the day.
“The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition continues to promote internet for all through forward thinking broadband solutions. We are grateful to Governor Ivey and the legislative champions who are leading the effort in bridging Alabama’s digital divide,” said Blake Hardwich, Energy Institute of Alabama Executive Director representing the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition.
The Connect Alabama Act:
- Creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority (ADEA) to oversee the expansion and availability of high-speed broadband services throughout the state, including in rural and underserved areas. The authority is chaired by Senator Clay Scofield and consists of Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell, Alabama Digital Expansion Division Chief, Office of Information Technology Director Marty Redden, Finance Director Kelly Butler, Sen. Donnie Chesteen, Sen. Del Marsh, Sen. Bobby Singleton, Rep. Laura Hall, Rep. Randall Shedd, Jim Hudson of Hudson Alpha, Miller Girvin of the EDPA, and John Mitchell of Mitchell Motors in Enterprise.
- Establishes the Alabama Digital Expansion Division, a subdivision of ADECA, that will develop and execute a statewide connectivity plan and establish and administer a broadband accessibility grant program. The grant program will promote the deployment and adoption of high-speed broadband internet networks, services and technologies throughout the state.
- Creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Finance Corporation (ADEFC) to issue bonds and serve as a resource to ADEA and the Alabama Digital Expansion Division by helping to fund broadband deployment projects.
Currently, Alabama is ranked 47th in terms of broadband connectivity and 73 percent of Alabama’s population does not have access to an affordable broadband plan. Alabama is also the only state in the southeast without an official broadband plan.
The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition, formed in 2018, is a group of organizations ranging from agriculture to economic development, education and health care that works to expand internet service by offering proactive policy solutions. The Coalition was instrumental in securing passage of Senate Bill 215.