SCABC continues work despite lack of official confirmation

Published 10:07 am Friday, July 27, 2012

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

With no word from the Department of Commerce on the fate of the South Central Alabama Broadband (SCAB) Project Thursday, the SCAB Commission board of directors continued to move forward.

It was reported that if approved, the grant will now address only “middle mile” connections, which according to attorney Tomas G. Mancuso includes 400 academic institutions, 30 public safety entities, 91 K-12 schools and libraries.

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At its regular meeting held at the Hayneville Plaza, the commission board of directors appointed a new interim executive director to temporarily replace an ailing Robert Wood.

The board also approved a request for proposals (RFP) for a network operator for the project when complete and added a new member to the SCABC board.

With board member Louis Maxwell abstaining, the board appointed Dr. Aaron D. McCall, current regional e-program manager for the SCABC, to the position of interim executive director.

In the absence of SCABC Vice Chairman Fletcher Fountain, the commission approved the addition of Mosses Mayor Walter S. Hill to the board and the RFP, giving SCABC Chairman Charlie King Jr. and board member Omar Neal authority to act with attorney approval.

The board of directors now include Ed Powell, representing Yellow Bluff; Maxwell, representing Macon County; Mayor Neal of Tuskegee; Mayor Hill of Mosses; King , representing Lowndes County; SCABC Secretary/Treasurer David Daniel, representing Hayneville; Mayor Fountain of Fort Deposit; and Mayor George Evans of Selma.

“All we’re waiting on is for the NTIA (the Department of Commerce’s National Technology and Information Administration) to lift the suspension, ” said King. “Once they lift the suspension, SCABC is off and running.”

It was also reported during the meeting that rights-of-way in the eight-county footprint of the project have been pledged to fill a $25 million in-kind match.

Neal said the grant was re-scaled to the middle mile so therefore the last mile, residential connectivity, is no longer a part of the original grant.

“So, the moneys that are available, we believe are sufficient to construct the middle mile,” he said. “And we will do the last mile separate from the grant.”

Neal said it is the intent of the board to build out to the last mile not only to initial 15,000 that was originally planned, but also to 75,000 to encompass the entire footprint.

“This grant has always been about middle mile,” said Larry Morrow of A-PLUS. “You are about to get an asset that was going to come with a $26 million debt.”

The project will construct 2,200 miles of fiber optic broadband network in Butler, Crenshaw, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox counties if allowed to go forward.

A letter to grant recipient Trillion Communications Corporation dated May 22 stated that the project had been suspended and might be terminated on July 23.