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Gov. Ivey signs Connect Alabama Act to drive broadband expansion

Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Connect Alabama Act into law Thursday in a ceremony at the State Capitol, creating a structure to drive broadband expansion throughout the state.

“The Connect Alabama Act is a transformational piece of legislation that I am proud to support and sign into law,” Ivey said. “This landmark new law ensures that Alabama will expand much-needed broadband access and further position Alabama for a robust 21st century economy, education system and health care system.”

The act, which was Senate Bill 215, creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority to oversee broadband expansion; establishes the Alabama Digital Expansion Division within the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to develop a statewide connectivity plan; and creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Finance Corporation to help fund broadband projects.

Joining the governor for the ceremony were bill sponsors Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville; representatives from the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition and the Connect Alabama Steering Committee, and members of the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority, which met Thursday.

“The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition continues to promote internet for all through forward-thinking broadband solutions,” said Blake Hardwich, Energy Institute of Alabama executive director, representing the Coalition. “We are grateful to Gov. Ivey and the legislative champions who are leading the effort in bridging Alabama’s digital divide,”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs Senate Bill 215, the Connect Alabama Act, putting the state in a better position to expand broadband service to rural and underserved communities. (Governor’s Office)

The Connect Alabama Act:

  • Creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority (ADEA) to oversee the expansion and availability of high-speed broadband services throughout the state, including in rural and underserved areas. The authority is chaired by state Sen. Clay Scofield and consists of Kenneth Boswell, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs; Marty Redden, director of the Office of Information Technology; Finance Director Kelly Butler; Sens. Donnie Chesteen, Del Marsh and Bobby Singleton; Reps. Laura Hall and Randall Shedd; Jim Hudson of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology; Miller Girvin of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, and John Mitchell of Mitchell Motors in Enterprise.
  • Establishes the Alabama Digital Expansion Division, a subdivision of ADECA that will develop and execute a statewide connectivity plan and establish and administer a broadband accessibility grant program. The grants are for deployment and adoption of high-speed broadband internet networks, services and technologies throughout the state.
  • Creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Finance Corporation (ADEFC) to issue bonds and be a resource to ADEA and the Alabama Digital Expansion Division by helping to fund broadband deployment projects.

Alabama is ranked 47th nationally in broadband connectivity, and 73% of the state population does not have access to an affordable broadband plan. Alabama was the only state in the Southeast without an official broadband plan.

The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition, formed in 2018, is a diverse group of organizations ranging from agriculture to economic development, education and health care that works to expand internet service by offering proactive policy solutions. The coalition was instrumental in securing passage of Senate Bill 215.