PRATTVILLE — A more than $82 million grant to help expand broadband service in Alabama will include three North Alabama rural electric cooperatives.
Gov. Kay Ivey, state and regional officials announced the $82.45 million grant will be used by Fiber Utility Network to fund a “middle-mile” broadband network.
The Fiber Utility Network is an eight-member corporation of rural electric cooperatives, including the Cullman Electric Cooperative, the Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp., and the North Alabama Electric Cooperative.
“In terms of broadband, this is a great leap forward,” he said at the announcement. “This will really put us at the forefront of broadband in Alabama, and it will help us expand much quicker and at a more economical cost.”
Once connected, residents will have the opportunity to become a customer of the last-mile broadband providers. The project’s funding was made available though the congressionally-approved American Rescue Plan Act.
State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman), co-chairman of the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority Board, said the project “is probably the most significant step we’ve taken to get high-speed Internet access to everyone in Alabama.”
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the award through its Alabama Digital Expansion Division.
ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said the project would serve as a “springboard” in fortifying the state’s digital infrastructure.
“The project is the springboard to supplying broadband services for rural residents, businesses, educational facilities and other community anchors,” said Boswell. “I commend the Fiber Utility Network for their willingness to undertake this necessary step to ensure more Alabamians have access to these services.”