More than two years ago, when Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC) investigated the need for fast, reliable broadband service for rural Alabama, it was apparent the need was strong, and in light of recent events, this need is even more evident.
On March 31, 2020, Governor Kay Ivey awarded eight grants to CAEC in an effort to bring rural broadband to 4,545 households and 261 business and community organizations in central Alabama. As part of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), the grants total more than $4.1 million.
“CAEC applied for eight grants in late 2019 to help ease the cost of bringing lightning-fast internet to those areas that need it. Receiving the news during a time when it’s so apparent this service is essential is a ray of hope for those who have been left in the digital dark,” said CAEC President and CEO Tom Stackhouse. “While it won’t happen overnight, these funds will allow us to keep focused on our number one goal of providing broadband service to those in areas where access to high-speed Internet is lacking.”
Through the launch of Central Access, a wholly owned subsidiary of CAEC, the construction of the cooperative’s broadband project began in August of 2019 with a 400-mile core fiber ring. Although the project is primarily self-funded, grants were applied for to help ease the overall investment.
Construction for customers in the eight grant zones will begin as the main-line fiber core is completed, which is expected to be November 2020. The grant build-out period is two years.
“Although building an entire network of this quality takes time, we’re certain these grant areas will have fiber capability within the two-year timeframe. We’re grateful to Governor Kay Ivey and ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell for their support of our broadband project, and we recognize the Alabama Legislators who provided the funding,” said Stackhouse. “We look forward to the opportunity to partner with Senators Clyde Chambliss, Cam Ward and Malika Sanders-Fortier and with Representatives Van Smith, April Weaver, Mike Holmes, Ed Oliver, Kelvin Lawrence and Prince Chestnut as we work to overcome the digital void in our service area.”
A breakdown of these zones and the number of households, businesses and community organizations impacted is below.
Zone 1 for portions of Lowndes County in the amount of $224,175 benefitting 301 households and 17 businesses and community organizations.
Zone 2 for portions of Autauga and Dallas Counties in the amount of $289,100 benefitting 343 households and 39 businesses and community organizations.
Zone 3 for portions of Autauga County and Dallas County near the Jones area in the amount of $480,200 benefitting 494 households and 40 businesses and community organizations.
Zone 4 for portions of Autauga County south of Billingsley in the amount of $682,325 benefitting 656 households and 50 businesses and community organizations.
Zone 5 for portions of Chilton County north of Billingsley in the amount of $1,066,975 benefitting 1,093 households and 53 businesses and community organizations.
Zone 6 for portions of Autauga County near the Kingston area in the amount of $557,988 benefitting 743 households and 29 businesses and community organizations.
Zone 7 for portions of Autauga, Chilton and Elmore Counties in the amount of $531,650 benefitting 509 households and 20 businesses and community organizations.
Zone 8 for portions of Chilton County near Thorsby in the amount of $279,300 benefitting 406 households and 13 businesses and community organizations.