By Alexander Willis
Aug. 9, 2023
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Just over a month after being awarded $1.4 billion in federal dollars to expand its broadband access, the state of Alabama is gearing up to dole out those dollars with a new initiative aimed at providing internet access across the state.
Dubbed ‘Be Linked Alabama,’ the new initiative was announced Tuesday by Gov. Kay Ivey during a speech in Dothan, where she announced how more than $400 million in federal funding, as well as the aforementioned $1.4 billion, will be used to expand access to high-speed internet across Alabama, particularly in its more rural areas.
“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,” Ivey said.
“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.”
At approximately $182 million, the first round of expenditures will come from the state’s Capital Projects Fund, which will be used to support ‘last-mile’ broadband projects, which provide the final step in actually connecting homes, business and institutions. The first round of grant applications for these funds will open next week and close in October.
Ivey also announced that more than $200 million in funding, which came from the American Rescue Plan Act and was allocated by the State Legislature this past session, will be used to fund the state’s new Anchor Institution/Middle Mile program, which will potentially serve 500 anchor facilities, such as universities, hospitals and government facilities. Unlike ‘last-mile’ projects, these projects target the ‘middle-mile,’ which provides the infrastructure needed for broadband access before actually connecting homes and businesses.
Application dates for grants for the Anchor Institution/Middle Mile program will be announced next week.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is in charge of overseeing the implementation of broadband expansion in the state. Regarding the $1.4 billion in federal funding, ADECA has until Dec. 23, 2023 to submit its plan to the federal government as to how it plans to use those funds to expand broadband access.
“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,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.
“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.”
Alabama has invested $88.6 million through grant awards for broadband expansion since 2018, with an estimated 82,000 households, businesses and institutions expected to have internet access once already awarded projects are complete.
Alabama’s Community College System made their own announcement shortly following Ivey’s, calling on jobseekers to consider participating in its Skills for Success classes, a series of no-cost workforce training programs launched in 2022.
“The Alabama Community College System is continually working alongside business, industries, employers and community partners as a solution to increasing Alabama’s labor force participation rate,” said Jimmy Baker, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System.
More than 5,000 Alabamians have registered for the Skills for Success classes since its launch, which feature fiber optics technician and installer training, as well as training for other industries such as hospitality, trucking and construction.