By Brandon Moseley
Aug. 9, 2023

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Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced how more than $400 million in federal funding and over $1.4 billion from the U.S. Department of Commerce Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program (BEAD) will be allocated to expand access to high-speed internet across Alabama.

At Tuesday’s event in Dothan, Governor Ivey also unveiled Be Linked Alabama as the name and hub representing the state’s continued efforts to expand access to high- speed internet.

“Providing broadband connectivity to every Alabamian, whether it be in our largest metros or most rural areas, has been a top priority of the Ivey Administration since day one,” said Gov. Ivey. “As we launch Be Linked Alabama today, we are furthering our commitment to fully connecting our state. Offering the ability to connect to high-speed internet in all 67 counties is a journey, not a short trip, but Alabama is certainly well positioned to finish this race in the near future.”

The new brand comes alongside massive investments by the federal government into broadband expansion in Alabama. The American Rescue Plan Act funds were allocated by the Alabama Legislature in 2022 and 2023 special sessions to support expansion of high-speed internet to unserved areas of the state.

Gov. Ivey announced the upcoming opening of grant applications for the $182 million from the Capital Projects Fund to support “last-mile” projects that provide the actual connections to homes, businesses, and community anchor institutions. The application period is expected to open on August 14 and close in October.

The state’s new Anchor Institution/Middle Mile (AIMM) program will be funded with the second round of American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated earlier this year. More than

$200 million will support this effort, which will potentially serve 500 anchor facilities – including institutions such as colleges and universities, rural hospitals, and government facilities that are inadequately served, along with “middle-mile” deployment that will provide the infrastructure to help facilitate last-mile deployment by internet service providers. The application dates for AIMM program will be announced at a workshop on Friday, August 11.

Be Linked Alabama represents the state’s united effort to expand access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet to all Alabamians. The statewide initiative is coordinated by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and brings together partners from across the state, including but not limited to Governor Ivey, the Alabama Legislature, internet service providers, research institutions, utility companies, community leaders and the public as Alabama works toward achieving the goal of high- speed internet access for all.

The Governor introduced that Be Linked Alabama website, a hub of internet expansion information and news. It includes the Alabama Broadband Map, county profiles and dashboards, and statewide broadband news.

Kenneth Boswell is the Director of ADECA.

“We have a great team in Alabama that includes public officials such as our governor and members of the Legislature, private sector companies, citizens, local leaders, and communities all joining together with a common goal – to give every Alabamian the ability to be connected,” said Director Boswell. “Our state has already made tremendous progress on our journey to expand high-speed internet availability by providers, but we still have a long way to go. Be Linked Alabama represents the progress that we have made and the continued progress still to come.”

“The funding announced today will have a lasting impact on Alabama’s future, and I am proud to have the opportunity to administer the deployment of these funds in a manner that will give our state the maximum benefit,” said Boswell. “Every dollar counts, and we are going to deploy these dollars efficiently to help make Governor Ivey’s goal of giving all Alabamians access to high-speed internet a reality.”

Along with the massive influx of federal funds, since 2018, the state of Alabama has invested $88.6 million in state dollars through grant awards supporting 109 projects through the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund.

Once all the projects awarded to date have been completed, internet service will be available to more than 82,000 Alabama households, businesses, and community institutions that do not have access to high-speed internet. In September 2022, Governor Ivey announced a grant to support broadband “middle-mile” network infrastructure to improve access for last-mile projects.

In June, Governor Ivey announced that Alabama would receive an additional $1.4 billion from the federal BEAD Program to boost ongoing efforts to expand access to unserved areas. ADECA will complete and submit Alabama’s required plan for using those funds to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Tuesday’s announcement included a demonstration from students trained at the Wallace Community College campus on how to deploy the fiber optic cables needed for high-speed internet delivery. This training was developed through the Alabama Community College System’s Innovation Center. The Innovation Center brings together the state’s community colleges, industries, and community partners to deliver training offered at no cost to participants thanks to funding provided by Ivey and the Alabama Legislature.

Ivey has made broadband expansion a priority of her administration. State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) and State Representative Randall Shedd (R) have carried her rural broadband package of bills in the Alabama Legislature.