Words by Matt Woods | Image by Al Blanton
We live in a world where the digital divide is widening. Access to broadband internet is becoming just as essential a part of a community as electricity, roads, and clean water. Without it, communities can’t grow, and many businesses will not locate to the area. When I campaigned for the opportunity to represent State House District 13, broadband internet expansion was one of my top priorities.
We must leverage all the state and federal resources available to provide this critical piece of infrastructure. Our students need it to access educational opportunities. Many people would like to work from home as part of the digital workforce. Businesses must have adequate broadband to locate in a particular area. I campaigned hard for broadband expansion as I believe it will improve the quality of life for those who do not currently have it. The state currently defines broadband as 100 megabits per second download speed and 20 megabits per second upload.
Last week while the legislature was on spring break, I attended a very important meeting focused on expanding broadband internet access in Walker County. The lack of high-speed broadband internet was front and center as elected officials, community members, and internet service providers met with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to discuss the Alabama Community Broadband Technical Assistance Program. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration. The program helps communities conduct broadband planning by understanding the broadband needs of residents, businesses, workers, and students in the county. Plans are then developed for adequate broadband service including capacity to support telehealth and employment opportunities. The program also works to improve broadband adoption in communities of greatest need.
Internet service providers on hand included Spectrum, AT&T, and Tombigbee Electric. Each of these providers currently offer speeds much higher than the standard set by the state and all expressed a willingness to expand their coverage in Walker County.
Walker County was the beneficiary of a state broadband grant awarded by ADECA in August of 2022. Charter Spectrum was awarded $4.9 million dollars to expand service to over 2,000 households and businesses in the Nauvoo and Oakman communities. While I appreciate all the investments made by the internet service providers in Walker County, we have many households and communities that are still lacking quality high speed internet. I want to encourage our citizens and community leaders to stay engaged as this process moves forward. Reach out to the internet service providers and let them know you want them in your neighborhood and let’s move Walker County forward.
Representative Matt Woods represents Alabama State House District 13, which covers parts of Walker County. You can contact him at email@example.com.