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,”
The Connect Alabama Act:
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.