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Counties, communities partner for broadband internet

By EASON FRANKLIN
The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Commission, Hayneville and Ft. Deposit have partnered with A+ Community Solutions Incorporated to form the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC).

The partnership is part of a joint effort amongst the counties and communities scheduled for the upcoming $59,258,545 federally funded broadband expansion project.

SCABC will own and operate the broadband network across four command centers, to be located in Brewton, Hayneville, the Porch Creek Indian Reservation and Tuskegee, upon the project’s completion.

Communities partnered under the SCABC will be of the first to receive access to the broadband network.

“The middle-mile project will give us the resources to extend to certain areas of the county,” Larry Morrow of A+ said. “Within five years, we hope to have built in all eight counties. The goal is to bring broadband from where it is in large cities into the rural or non-urban communities.”

The “one-connect” network will feature 15 different television, phone and internet service providers, which will allow customers to switch their service provider at a moment’s notice.

On the new system, customers continue to pay service providers directly. However, the service provider pays the SCABC for use of the fiber optic network.

Funds collected by the SCABC will then be channeled back into each county and its communities, said Morrow.

Construction of the nearly 2,200 miles of fiber optic cable across Butler, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox Counties will take place over a period of 30 months.

Throughout its course, the project is expected to employ 1,200-2,200 workers initially, 200-300 permanently, bring in six-to-seven large contracting companies and 500-1000 smaller, local businesses.

“We anticipate six-to-seven large contractors who will focus on state roads and interstates,” Morrow said. “Once we get into the county roads, we are anticipating using 500-1000 smaller companies.”

Qualified worker applying for employment will be given a list of companies hiring in that worker’s field.

The Lowndes County partnership has not officially secured a location for its broadband operation center, but is scheduled to reconvene at 6 p.m., Dec. 30 in the Charles Smith, Jr Annex.