MONTGOMERY, Al (WIAT)– When we think of infrastructure we typically think of roads and bridges, but there’s a critical aspect that is just as important.
Jaunita Owes the director of Montgomery Public Libraries knows firsthand the impact not having access to high-speed internet can have on people.
“It’s essential that you have a fast broadband speed for particularly for public libraries,” said Jaunita Owes.
Owes says most of their visitors don’t have internet at home.
Governor Kay Ivey recently signed legislation to try to make broadband more available to Alabamians,
particularly in the rural areas.
Senate Bill 90, known as the Rural Broadband Initiative, allows the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to expand the grant program for broadband providers in rural and under-served areas. The grant initiative is supervised by ADECA and the Alabama Rural Broadband Legislative Oversight Committee.
The bill also raises the minimum transmission speeds required to participate in the grant program and creates a “middle mile” component, which will allow companies to build additional infrastructure to provide more bandwidth for high-speed internet access.
“I applaud the legislature doing that because it is something that we needed,” said Owes.
According to lawmakers about 800,000 Alabamians don’t have broadband in their homes.
Representative Anthony Daniels says this not just a problem in rural areas.
“Right now you have access that allows schools and some businesses, but really getting that down to the home level is what’s important and a goal for us,” said Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville.
The legislature has added $20 million to the rural broadband grant program.