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Opinion | Broadband expansion

During the recent special session, we allocated $260 million in ARPA dollars to help the state continue building its broadband infrastructure.


Alabama has made significant investments over the past five years to expand broadband access across the state, and as a result, we are making great progress towards bringing high-speed internet to unserved communities throughout Alabama.  

The Governor and Legislature are focused on building upon this success, so during the recent Special Session of the Legislature, we allocated $260 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to help the state continue building its broadband infrastructure for the benefit of all Alabama residents and businesses.

This important bill, which has now been passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, is one of many investments the state has made to improve broadband accessibility. 

In 2018, the Alabama legislature enacted the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, through which our state has awarded $88.6 million in grants for the expansion of broadband services through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). These investments have already brought high-speed internet access to tens of thousands of households and businesses, with tens of thousands more on the way.

The legislature also passed the Connect Alabama Act in 2021, which created the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority (ADEA) to advise, review, and approve Alabama’s statewide connectivity plan, and to analyze data and mapping that will provide the information needed to make the best decisions for broadband in our state. 

This has been a great success and paid huge dividends thanks to ADEA’s efficient stewardship of our state’s broadband dollars as funds have been utilized to efficiently support projects where Alabama needs them most. Before passing these important legislative priorities, our state ranked near the bottom of the chart nationally in broadband connectivity. Those days are along behind us, and now other states are looking at Alabama as a model of how to get broadband expansion done.

In 2022, the state of Alabama allocated $192 million of ARPA funds for last mile expansion and another $85 million of ARPA funds for the creation of a statewide middle mile network.

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You can think of “middle mile” as the road you take to get to a certain address, and the “last mile” as your destination’s driveway. Through Governor Kay Ivey’s leadership in supporting this middle mile network, which will touch almost all of Alabama’s 67 counties, we are “paving” the way for our state to have more robust and cost-efficient broadband access once additional state and federal dollars become available in the coming years.

This is a critically important investment into our state as we are implementing the bold vision set forth by ADEA in the Alabama Connectivity Plan. 

Without access to high-speed internet, a community simply can’t meet its full potential in a modern, 21st Century economy. Alabamians depend on high-speed internet for work, education, healthcare, and countless other needs. 

We need to make sure that every Alabamian has access to high-speed internet, and with the passage of this spending bill, we are well on our way. ADEA will continue to oversee these efforts to ensure that the funds are being spent efficiently and effectively on projects that will have the highest possible impact for our state. We are committed to bringing broadband access to all of Alabama, and this is one more step in that direction.

Republican Randall Shedd represents District 11, in the Alabama House of Representatives which includes portions of Blount, Cullman, Marshall, and Morgan Counties

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