Tombigbee Communications awarded $2.98 million for rural broadband expansion
Tombigbee Communications, a subsidiary of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, today announced the company was awarded a $2.98 million grant administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS). Funded under the Community Connect Broadband Grant Program, the funds primarily will be used to extend service of freedom FIBER, the company’s ultra-high-speed fiber optic service, to the area of Brilliant, Alabama – a rural community in Northwest Alabama. freedom FIBER already has made service available to the areas of Hamilton and Winfield.
“Bringing broadband access to rural homes and businesses in 2018 is comparable to bringing electricity to rural homes and businesses in the 1930’s – it is a critical necessity that we are honored and fortunate to provide,” said Steve Foshee, president and CEO of Tombigbee Communications. “We are incredibly appreciative of Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature for their commitment to rural broadband expansion, as well as the unwavering support from Congressman Robert Aderholt, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the USDA. We are grateful for the opportunity to use this grant to continue our mission of advancing our rural communities and positively impacting our customers – our neighbors, families and friends.”
RUS grants are administered to expand economic development and improve quality of life in rural communities – two tenants deeply important to Tombigbee. By providing greater access to broadband, RUS grants support the nation’s long-term prosperity by ensuring that rural communities have the infrastructure necessary for residents to flourish, fight population decline and advance alongside larger metropolitan cities. U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (AL-04), of Haleyville, stewarded the process of procuring this grant.
“Access to high speed internet is now just as important to a high quality of life as electricity, water and sewer. As a country, we cannot allow the large rural sections of our population to be disconnected from the rest of the world, and therefore, be cut off from economic opportunities,” said Congressman Aderholt. “With this nearly $3 million investment into rural broadband along with the recently funded $625 million broadband pilot program comes an assurance of the prosperity of rural America. Their future looks bright and better than ever before.”
Brilliant will benefit greatly from increased economic development – Marion County has a poverty level of 18.6 percent, and 23.8 percent of Brilliant citizens live in poverty. In addition to improving economic development, safety and quality of life, increased broadband access in this area will make a profound difference within the education system by allowing students to have internet access at their homes and more easily complete their homework.
“In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of rural electrification and what it meant to people in those communities. FDR said it was ‘a modern necessity of life, not a luxury. That necessity ought to be found in every village, in every house, and on every farm in every part of the United States.’ Though he was talking about electricity, the same can be said for broadband Internet access today. To compete in today’s global marketplace, we must remove the infrastructure gaps in rural communities,” said Secretary Perdue. “This grant is in keeping with President Trump’s directive that we use all available tools to increase prosperity in rural America. As we pursue economic expansion, we recognize that broadband e-Connectivity is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.”
The grant money will be used to construct 145 miles of broadband facilities to hundreds of households. As part of the community outreach strategy, Tombigbee will set up an interactive community center in the new service area to provide citizens with free access to the ultra-high-speed internet as well as free training sessions.
“The internet is vital to economic development, healthcare, education, and to be honest, all areas of our modern life. Broadband expansion, especially in rural Alabama, is a priority of mine, which is why I’m proud to be a part of today’s announcement for Tombigbee Communications,” said Governor Ivey. “I commend Congressman Robert Aderholt’s and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s efforts to increase broadband access in communities across our state and around the country. Today’s announcement of a nearly $3 million grant is a testament to their leadership and the strong partnership we have with them on the state level.”
freedom FIBER, currently being connected in Hamilton and Winfield, will allow northwest Alabama to be the first region in the state to offer universally available fiber optic services. The reliable, ultra-high-speed internet connection will be among the fastest available in Alabama, and will be available to customers at an affordable price point. Residential customers are offered two speeds: 100 mbps up and 100 mbps down, or 1 gigabit up and 1 gigabit down. Businesses will receive 10 gigabit services, with varied rates depending on the specific needs of each company. VoIP phone services will also be available. freedom FIBER is not metered or data capped.
Residents of the grant-funded area can expect construction to begin in July 2018, and should be able to begin enjoying the ease of ultra-high-speed internet in October 2018.