USDA investing $62.3 million in rural Alabama broadband

USDA investing $62.3 million in rural Alabama broadband
Alabama officials were joined by USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald "DJ" LaVoy, third from right, for the rural broadband announcement. (contributed)

Four companies will use $62.3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand rural broadband infrastructure to parts of Alabama.

The Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, Millry Telephone Co., Farmers Telecommunication Cooperative and National Telephone of Alabama are using grants from the USDA to improve e-connectivity.

More than 8,000 rural households, 57 farms, 44 businesses, 17 educational facilities, 14 critical community facilities and three health care facilities in rural Alabama will benefit from the new infrastructure.

USDA investing $62.3 million in Alabama rural broadband initiatives from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Beyond connecting us to our friends and family, high-speed broadband internet connectivity, or e-connectivity, is a necessity, not an amenity, to do business, access opportunities in education and receive specialized health care in rural America today,” said Donald “DJ” LaVoy, USDA deputy under secretary for Rural Development.

“Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in deploying this critical infrastructure, because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives,” he said.

LaVoy joined Alabama and officials of the companies on Dec. 5 in Hamilton to announce the expansions, which include:

  • Tombigbee Electric Cooperative will use a $29.5 million 50% loan-grant combination to develop an All-Dielectric Self-Supporting (ADSS) fiber network in unserved areas of Marion, Lamar, Fayette, Franklin, Winston and Walker counties. This investment is expected to reach 2,152 households, 20 farms, 15 businesses, 10 critical community facilities, five educational facilities and one health care facility.
  • Millry Telephone will use a $28.2 million 50% loan-grant combination to develop a fiber-to-the-home network in Choctaw and Washington counties. This investment is expected to reach 3,797 households, 20 farms, 15 businesses, 11 educational facilities, four critical community facilities and two health care centers.
  • National Telephone of Alabama will use a $2.7 million 50% loan-grant combination to develop a fiber-to-the premises (FTTP) network in Colbert County. This investment is expected to reach 378 rural households, 17 farms and 14 businesses.
  • Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative will use a $2 million loan to develop a FTTH network in Jackson and DeKalb counties. This investment is expected to reach 1,676 homes and one educational facility.

“When the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee created the Re-Connect program back in 2018 under my leadership, our goal was to help expand broadband to rural areas and help close the ‘digital divide’ that isolates so many parts of rural America,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt, who represents the 4th congressional district in northern Alabama.

“I believed then, and continue to believe now, that the expansion, maintenance and upgrading of broadband service should be of highest priority. This program is beginning to pay dividends in rural Alabama and America,” Aderholt said.

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