Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced this week that a $21,286,914 federal grant will expand high-speed (broadband) Internet service in Cleburne, Clay, Calhoun and several counties in northwest Georgia.
The money is part of an overall $132 million in grants to expand broadband Internet service in the state and will be a big boost to many rural areas of the state.
“The availability of high-speed Internet service will provide a substantial tool for economic development in many smaller communities and rural areas. Broadband service not only expands business opportunities, it also will contribute to improved healthcare and education opportunities,” Gov. Riley said.
According to a release from the Governor’s office, “A broadband initiative established by Riley, ConnectingAlabama, gave support and technical assistance to many of the successful grant applicants. All of the projects have the goal of creating jobs and expanding economic opportunities in previously under-served areas. To reach the greatest number of Alabamians possible, special efforts are being made to connect community institutions like libraries, schools and community centers.
The Appalachian Valley Fiber Network is receiving the funds to expand the service in Cleburne and surrounding counties.
Project plans include connection of 185 community institutions and 8,300 businesses. An estimated 345,000 residents in Alabama and Georgia could benefit from the service expansion.
The grants will be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
ConnectingAlabama Executive Director Jessica Dent said the program seeks to provide every region in the state with the communication tools and technical data needed to fully participate in the global economy of the 21st Century.
“Broadband service will expand business opportunities, improve the availability of distance learning and make top-quality medical care more accessible in under-served areas,” she said.
Heflin Mayor Anna Berry said “this will be a big boost for us as well as for Fruithurst and Edwardsville. This is a huge deal for us. We didn’t have to do anything except send in letters of support. We’re just happy to be the recipients.”
She said she understands the broadband fiber optic cable will be run along the railway.
Berry along with Heflin City Clerk Terri Daulton noted that in other areas where broadband has arrived, businesses and industry have developed.
Berry said broadband is another service Heflin can offer to potential and existing businesses.