In a bid to close the digital divide, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is engaging in a series of statewide meetings as part of a new initiative, the Alabama Community Broadband Technical Assistance Program (TAP).
The meetings, which will be open to the public, are through a program organized by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). The new initiative will be offered in each of Alabama’s 67 counties.
“In today’s modern world, being connected is a necessity, and there’s far too many Alabamians who are unable to access high-speed internet. Increasing access to connectivity across the state has been and will continue to be a top priority for my Administration as we move into the next four years,” said Gov. Ivey. “This is the first meeting of many that will be offered in all 67 counties across the state, and I encourage our local leaders and communities to participate. These ADECA-led programs host the critical steps we must take to get our state across the broadband finish line.”
TAP is administered by ADECA’s Alabama Digital Expansion Division, and is intended to provide technical assistance to units of local government and other public stakeholders in Alabama seeking to deploy or expand broadband infrastructure and services to help communities prepare for broadband deployment and digital opportunities. TAP gives participating counties and jurisdictions access to the tools that help them understand broadband gaps and opportunities. The governor’s office said access to these tools will “allow communities to be positioned for increased broadband efforts to address these challenges.”
The program is funded via grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
In a press release, Gov. Ivey’s office claims that over the next few years, Alabama will “make unprecedented funds available” to provide needed tools and resources and engagement from elected officials, internet service providers, government and community anchors, community-based organizations and the general public “will be critical to shaping the state’s plans for counties to be positioned to take maximum advantage of these opportunities.”
“Under Governor Ivey’s leadership, Alabama has made strides in mapping and planning at the state level to increase broadband service in unserved areas of our state,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “With the help of this funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce, ADECA will extend assistance with broadband mapping and planning to the county level. This will help counties and communities develop plans and data to help take advantage of the many future opportunities for grant funding to help internet service providers expand broadband access to unserved areas.”
The series of county meetings is the first phase in a three-phase plan. Following stakeholder engagement and asset identification for broadband readiness, the state will engage in data collection and collaboration to understand baseline broadband needs and assess the current state of broadband access. Finally, the state will engage in strategy development for broadband deployment and digital opportunity partnerships.