The state of Alabama is set to receive $1.4 billion to expand its broadband infrastructure as part of a $42 billion federal spending program. Included in the 2021 Infrastructure bill, the program will see all 50 states receive a portion of the funding to expand internet connectivity in rural and underserved areas.
Despite Alabama ranking 24th in population size, the state will receive the eighth-highest amount of money from the federal program, known as BEAD, with funding based on an internet coverage map developed by the Federal Communications Commission.
“My priority is for Alabama to gain full ability to be connected to high-speed internet, (and) we have taken several significant strides toward this goal,” Gov. Kay Ivey said on Monday. “Today’s announcement provides a tremendous boost in the journey toward full broadband access no matter where you live in Alabama.”
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs will oversee the implementation of broadband expansion in the state, and will have 180 days – until December 23, 2023 – to submit its plans to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration as to how it plans to use the money to expand broadband infrastructure.
This latest announcement comes not long after the Alabama Legislature approved $660 million in March for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, which, as part of a supplemental spending bill, was also from federal funds. Expanding broadband access has been a major priority for many state lawmakers, with Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, telling Alabama Daily News back in February that targeting broadband was a key priority of his and his Senate colleagues.
“Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Ivey and a strong team effort among the Legislature, internet service providers and many others, Alabama is continuing to make great progress in broadband mapping, planning and deployment,” said Kenneth Boswell, who will help implement broadband expansion in the state as the director of ADECA.
“These efforts have put us in good position with the BEAD program to accelerate our work to close the digital divide in Alabama.”
Alabama has already invested more than $88 million into broadband infrastructure since 2018 through grants to 109 different projects. An additional 82,000 Alabama households and businesses are expected to have access to broadband as a result of these projects, according to Ivey’s office.
The federal program awards for states ranged from $107 million to more than $3.3 billion, though some territories like the U.S. Virgin Islands will receive less. Alabama was one of just 19 states to receive more than $1 billion.
Also on Monday, President Joe Biden championed the program during a press conference as “the biggest investment in high-speed internet ever,” calling internet access “just as important as electricity, water or other basic services.”
Biden’s said the goal of the program is to give every American access to affordable, high-speed internet by 2030.