MONTGOMERY – In a major step toward continued expansion of broadband internet service in rural Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey today signed Senate Bill 90 into law. Sponsored by Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), SB90 expands an existing grant program under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, which was established by the Alabama Legislature in 2018.
Senate Bill 90, known as The Rural Broadband Initiative, allows the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to expand the grant program for broadband providers in rural and underserved areas. The grant initiative is supervised by ADECA and the Alabama Rural Broadband Legislative Oversight Committee.
The bill also raises the minimum transmission speeds required to participate in the grant program and creates a “middle mile” component, which will allow companies to build additional infrastructure to provide more bandwidth for high-speed internet access.
Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) applauded Senator Scofield for his tireless work on an issue that will have a positive impact on thousands of rural Alabamians.
“This is a critical piece of infrastructure legislation. When people think about infrastructure, it’s traditionally just roads and bridges, but in a digital age that relies heavily on cutting edge technology, investing in expanding and improving broadband is equally as important,” explained Reed. “This bill sets up rural Alabama for further growth and prosperity, and I thank Senator Scofield for spearheading this important work.”
The World Bank commissioned a study in 2014 that showed a 10% increase in broadband penetration could increase economic growth by 1.2%. It also stated that doubling broadband speeds can add 0.3% to GDP growth. As of late 2018, it is estimated that 800,000 people in Alabama are without access to a wired connection capable of 25mbps download speeds, and 276,000 people in Alabama don’t have any wired internet providers available at all.