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Alabama Power’s ‘Connectivity Crew’ is first in nation

If you’ve driven recently on U.S. Highway 31 in the vicinity of Calera, you might have noticed an Alabama Power crew working on the lines and poles along the road. Or maybe you haven’t noticed because you take it for granted that Alabama Power crews work continually to meet the needs of customers and enhance the reliability and resilience of the power grid.

But this crew is different. In fact, it’s the only crew of its kind in the nation, specially trained to install and maintain the fiber infrastructure for expanding broadband access across Alabama.

Alabama Power’s ‘Connectivity Crew’ is the first of its kind in the nation from Alabama News Center on Vimeo.

It’s Alabama Power’s new Connectivity Crew. Prior to the creation of this specialized unit, installing, splicing, testing and activating new fiber-optic cable required three different crews. The Connectivity Crew is the first anywhere to combine all those operations. That’s in keeping with Alabama Power’s national reputation as an industry leader in innovation — something that benefits its customers and the entire state.

“We’re thinking about the grid of tomorrow,” said Scott Moore, senior vice president of Power Delivery for Alabama Power. “Fiber is the key to how we’ll best serve our customers in the future. This is a historic investment that makes our grid stronger and more secure, and it puts Alabama Power at the leading edge of fiber deployment and buildout.”

Scott Moore, Alabama Power’s senior vice president of power delivery, participated in training the Connectivity Crew. (File)

Faster deployment of broadband brings numerous benefits. It helps narrow the digital divide in rural Alabama, expanding access to educational and informational resources to improve the lives of Alabamians. It enhances the security and reliability of the power grid, which helps ensure that schools, hospitals, and businesses of all sizes and types have the power they need to operate. It creates more opportunities for entrepreneurs and in-demand jobs and professions.

Arnab Ghosal, Alabama Power general manager of Grid Inform and Connectivity.

“This will benefit our customers in multiple ways,” said Arnab Ghosal, Alabama Power’s general manager of Grid Inform and Connectivity. “We want to continue to innovate and contribute to big solutions that impact Alabama not only from a grid perspective, but also in terms of economic development opportunities. We think that other utilities across the country will follow our model.”

Deployment of the Connectivity Crew — from concept and program design through training — is the latest step in a process that began in 2018. That’s when Alabama Power began developing a plan for replacing its aging fiber infrastructure with one that opens new avenues of connection and opportunity to growing numbers of Alabamians. Ultimately, that plan encompassed numerous departments and led to the creation of a certified training program for connectivity linemen — the team now being deployed.

“We’re writing a new chapter for Alabama Power,” said Adam Carr, grid investment manager. “It’s exciting to be part of this team, and to think about what it means to this company and the state of Alabama.”

Connectivity Crew Foreman Jason Quick receives his certificate for completing the crew’s training and testing program from Technical Training Manager Bill McGough (left) and Nolan Jones, Fiber Construction Contracts & Inspectors supervisor. (Billy Brown)

That sense of pride and excitement is evident in every Alabama Power employee who has been involved in the process that culminated in creating and launching the Connectivity Crew. Yvonne Essix, general manager of Shared Services, sees it as both an affirmation of the company’s historic role in moving Alabama forward and a demonstration of its commitment to the future.

“Alabama Power is known for finding new and innovative ways to leverage technology to do our jobs more effectively and serve our customers better,” Essix said. “Fiber is essential to the future, so having our company at the forefront of that is exciting. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.”

Yvonne Essix, Alabama Power’s general manager of shared services. (file)

Putting the new crew to work also involved a new agreement between Alabama Power and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), of which all the company’s linemen are members. Casey Shelton, business manager for IBEW System Council U-19, credited Alabama Power for taking action to address the need for greater connectivity and the benefits it will bring to Alabama.

“Our industry and the work we do changes daily,” Shelton said. “We don’t want to just keep up, we want to stay ahead. What Alabama Power is doing is going to provide work to support a lot of people and families, and it’s going to bring growth to our state.”

Helping people and businesses, creating jobs, paving the way to a more prosperous future — that’s what Alabama Power’s investment in fiber, and its deployment of the Connectivity Crew, boils down to, Moore said.

“Fiber creates opportunities that touch on every aspect of our business. This crew will be at the forefront of helping us do a lot of new things that will be good for our customers and good for Alabama.”

To learn more about Alabama Power and its ongoing initiative to expand the deployment of fiber, strengthen reliability and help close the digital divide, click here.