Interim funding sought for SCABC broadband project

Published 10:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

The South Central Alabama Broadband Commission’s (SCABC) board of directors, the Alabama Conference of Black Mayors and the World Conference of Mayors are calling for the federal government to refund a terminated broadband project grant.

The SCABC board of directors met in Tuskegee last Thursday, Feb. 7 in conjunction with the two mayors’ conferences and approved a joint resolution asking the federal government revisit its ruling on reinstating the terminated BTOP funds that had been awarded to Trillion Communication Corp and re-grant those funds to the SCABC.

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The board also heard from two potential partners to help SCABC build out the broadband project.

It was announced at a recent Lowndes County Commission meeting that (SCABC) is still alive, has restructured its board of directors and has found private funding for a broadband project in the same footprint as the original project.

The original broadband project was set to construct a broadband network with 2,200 miles of fiber optic cable with the “last mile” of the project to be fiber to the home in eight counties including Butler, Crenshaw, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox.

The new plan, according to SCABC Managing Director Dr. Aaron D.  McCall, is to connect 75,000 homes to the network.  He said the first phase would be a wireless phase with the same capacity as the actual fiber with speeds up to one gigabyte, and the second phase would be cable in the ground.

McCall updated the board at its Feb. 7 meeting on the progress with the private funding of the project.

He told the board that he had been in touch with a “funding source” but was not ready to release their names because “there are several more details to be worked out.”

The board then voted to allow McCall to seek some interim funding with which to operate while waiting to close on project funding.

The board also heard presentations from and directed McCall to work directly with Steve C. Roberts, president of The Roberts Companies of St. Louis, Mo. and Ed. Hudson of Advanced Technology Group of Birmingham and report back to the board in its next regular meeting.

According to McCall, The Roberts Companies are a multi-faceted business that encompasses construction management and consulting, real estate development including shopping centers, hotels and theatre projects, wireless communication site development as well as television and radio broadcast properties.

Advanced Technology Group is a technology consulting firm specializing in funding community-owned broadband networks, he said.

In other business, the board received McCall’s recommendation for a new SCABC Broadband Network Construction Team.

He said the team would be announced once approved by the board of directors.

“We’re moving forward with the eight counties and 37 cities in the Black Belt, to try make sure we introduce everybody to technology across the world as it relates to broadband,” Charlie King Jr., president of the SCABC said.

He said SCABC’s integrity is intact and that numerous people want to come aboard to help “and we’re proud and we’re moving on.”

The next regular Board meeting will be hosted in Wilcox County at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28.