Ivey awards $188M ‘middle-mile’ broadband funding

Published 10:00 am Friday, February 9, 2024

Governor Kay Ivey visited her hometown of Camden Monday, to announce the award of more than $188 Million to fund broadband expansion for rural communities like those in Butler County.

The announcement unveiled the Alabama Anchor Institution/Middle Mile Grant Program which awards 12 internet service providers (ISOP) $188,453,905 for 4,000 miles of “middle-mile” high-speed internet expansion projects to help fill the gap for residents in Butler, Lowndes, Dallas, Marengo and other rural Alabama counties. Grant funding is aimed at making expansion more economically feasible and less labor intensive for providers to underserved businesses and households.

Rep. Terri Sewell was present for the announcement and praised the effort planned to bridge the gap to provide affordable, reliable broadband to rural communities.

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“In the 21st century, access to affordable, high-speed internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and one that many Alabamians have gone without for far too long,” said Rep. Sewell. “I was thrilled to help make this funding available through the American Rescue Plan and I applaud Governor Ivey and Director Boswell for making these investments. I will continue working to ensure that this funding reaches those who need it most.”

Alabama Fiber Network was awarded $128.8 million to install five middle-mile projects in Bibb, Butler, Chilton, Choctaw, Conecuh, Dale, Dallas, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lowndes, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox counties. 

Alabama Fiber Network is a coalition of eight rural electric cooperatives.  The project will provide service over 1,776 miles and connect 438 anchor institutions to high-speed internet.

Ivey delivered the news during a meeting at The Pecan on Broad in Camden as the final stop in her statewide broadband tour.

“Rural Alabama, like so many other places in the state, is in need of increased access to high-speed internet, and today we are taking a significant stride in our journey toward full broadband access,” Ivey said during the gathering. “These middle-mile projects will be extremely beneficial to our anchor institutions, and it puts us in a desirable situation where the ‘last mile’ projects that will supply broadband service to businesses and households are more economical and attainable.”

More than 790 anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and medical facilities and government and public safety buildings located on or near the middle-mile routes will benefit from awarded projects administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) as part of its Alabama Digital Expansion Division which was established by the Alabama Legislature and Ivey to focus on high-speed internet expansion in the Alabama.

“ADECA is pleased to be involved in this broadband-expansion effort that will benefit so many people and improve lives,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “I am grateful to Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature for having the confidence to entrust ADECA with this all-important program.”

JMF Solutions was awarded $6.3 million for four projects affecting 24 anchor institutions. The project will provide middle-mile connections over a 1,169-mile route in Bibb, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Greene, Lowndes, Macon, Monroe, Randolph and Washington counties.

The Legislature funded the middle-mile program through an allocation from the state’s share of American Rescue Plan Act Funds.

Other entities awarded grants are:

  • Uniti Fiber – $4.2 million for about 64 miles of middle-mile project in Butler, Lowndes and Montgomery counties including four anchor institutions;
  • Yellowhammer Networks – $2.52 million for a middle-mile project impacting six anchor institutions and spanning 620 miles in Bibb, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry, Sumter and Wilcox counties to include the cities of Selma, Demopolis and Eutaw;
  • Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $2.69 million to install middle-mile infrastructure along 38 miles serving 33 anchor institutions in Autauga and Elmore counties;
  • Coosa Valley Technologies Inc. – $7 million to provide 110 miles of middle-mile connections affecting 17 anchor institutions in Calhoun, St. Clair and Talladega counties;
  • Cullman Electric Cooperative – $1.46 million to install middle-mile connections including 15 anchor institutions and covering 106 miles in various areas of Cullman County;
  • Farmers Telecommunications Corp. – $21.6 million for two middle-mile fiber routes serving 189 anchor institutions and totaling 155 miles in Blount, Etowah, Jefferson and Marshall counties;
  • Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp. – $5.25 million to provide more than 20 miles of middle-mile infrastructure in the Courtland area in Lawrence County and affecting 16 anchor institutions;
  • Point Broadband – $411,341 to provide a middle-mile project to cover 12/3 miles and impact 21 anchor institutions in Blount County.
  • Spectrum Southeast – $7.3 million for a middle-mile project involving 167 miles and connecting eight anchor institutions in rural southeastern Houston County;
  • Tombigbee Electric Cooperative – $757,479 to provide nearly 50 miles in Winston County and affecting 22 anchor institutions.