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Ivey awards $9.5 million in broadband expansion grants

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Gov. Kay Ivey awarded 20 broadband expansion grants totaling more than $9.5 million to provide high-speed Internet access to various communities across Alabama.

The grants are part of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund and were awarded to nine broadband providers to help fund multiple projects in their coverage area.

Ivey said that high-speed Internet is always important to have but especially now as cases of COVID-19 have increased in the state and more people are asked to work and learn at home. Public schools are now closed and students are finishing the academic year in their houses.

“I am pleased to support these projects and look forward to the day when every household, school, health care facility, emergency service and business throughout Alabama is afforded broadband availability,” Ivey said in a press release.

The fund, which is being administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, was created by the Alabama Legislature in 2018 to provide high-speed internet to rural and underserved areas of the state.

ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said in a news release that COVID-19 has “underscored the value and necessity of high-speed broadband services.”

“ADECA takes its role in administering this program seriously and is honored to be entrusted with the responsibility,” Boswell said.

There are still large swaths of the state, especially in rural areas, that lack basic high-speed broadband access. An updated map of the coverage areas in Alabama was released by ADECA earlier this year that shows about half of the state’s landmass being labeled as “unserved.”

In order for an area to be counted as being “served” it has to have a minimum internet speed of 25 megabits per second for downloads and uploads of 3 Mbps.

This latest round of Broadband Accessibility grants came from applications submitted in late December 2019.

In this year’s education budget, $20 million was allocated for a rural broadband access grants administered through ADECA. The same amount is proposed in Ivey’s 2021 education budget.

Because of the coronavirus, the state Legislature has delayed its session until April 28 when lawmakers are then expected to vote on state budgets.

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