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SCABC to hold public workshop, hear proposals

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

“We’re ready to rock and roll to provide the network and service we promised these eight counties and 37 cities three years ago that they would get,” said Dr. Aaron D. McCall, managing director of the South Central Broadband Commission, Thursday.

McCall’s comments followed a decision by the SCABC board of directors Thursday morning to hold a public workshop at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 13 at the Lowndes County Water Authority Building in Hayneville to hear proposals from three companies vying to design, build, finance and operate a broadband network in eight South Central Alabama counties.

The SCABC made the decision as a step toward selecting a private partner to build and operate a broadband network at meeting hosted by Mosses Mayor Walter Hill at the Mosses Municipal Complex.

According to McCall, a request for qualifications, approved by the SCABC board of directors at its last meeting, was published through industry sites and groups on Linkin.com and direct solicitations.

After receiving seven responses, the SCABC narrowed the list of potential private partners to hear from to three on Thursday.

They include G4S, Mastec and Magellan Partners; Oasis Consulting Services; and URS, Fujitsu and Turtles & Hughes.

Present for the meeting were members of the SCABC board of directors including, Selma Mayor George Evans; David Daniel of the Hayneville Town Council; Charlie King Jr., former Lowndes County Commissioner and current president of the SCABC; Louis Maxwell, chairman of the Macon County Commission; Ricky Powell, chairman of the Wilcox County Commission and Mayor Hill.

Also present was McCall, who is a non-voting member of the board.

The SCABC was originally formed to own and manage a broadband communications infrastructure designed to bridge the digital divide in South Central Alabama.

The original project to construct 2,200 miles of fiber-optic broadband network in Butler, Crenshaw, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox counties was to be funded by a  $59 million in federal grant and $27 million in matching funds.

While funding to grant recipient Trillion Communications was terminated in October of 2012, the SCABC has continued efforts to move a broadband project forward.

McCall said the SCABC now consists of five member counties including Conecuh, Dallas, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox, as well as numerous municipalities in the eight-county footprint.

“As managing director of the SCABC, I’m very excited,” McCall said. “I’m excited about where we are and where we are going.”

He said two months ago, the SCABC released information that it was talking with entities that had the capability to come forward and provide funding for the SCABC Network.

He said the public is invited to attend the June 13 workshop to hear from three of largest, most capable broadband companies in the country with a wealth of experience to partner with the SCABC to develop and build the network to served 75,000 homes in South Central Alabama.

“From today’s take away and from today’s reaction of the board, I think that we are on our way,” McCall said.

He said the network would include wireless and fiber with the addition of residential connectivity.

McCall said the original grant, to Trillion Communications, which was terminated, only provided for 20 percent of the residential connection. “What we are doing now is expanding from 20 to 100 percent of residential connections, plus the businesses, anchor institutions and governments with the eight counties.”

He said the broadband network would have 1,000 gigabytes down and 700 gigabytes going up.

“I think the citizens of this community will be very well pleased once we get it going,” McCall said.

According to McCall, the SCABC will own the network in trust for all eight counties.

The SCABC regularly meets the fourth Thursday of each month.