SCABC announces expansion, new education campaign
Published 4:59 pm Friday, May 9, 2014
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
The South Central Alabama Broadband Commission announced on Tuesday, May 6 the launch of a national education awareness campaign called “Get Wired Alabama” and the expansion of its broadband project.
The project will now include 17 counties and the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians, officials announced on Tuesday at a press conference held at the Capitol Auditorium in Montgomery.
The project will now include the entities of Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Escambia, Green, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumpter and Wilcox counties and the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians.
According to a SCABC press release, the organization is a three year-old cooperative capital district whose purpose is to own and manage a community-owned telecommunications infrastructure that will use an integrated fiber optic and wireless network to provide high speed connectivity to every home, business and governmental agency in the South Central Alabama District.
Charlie King Jr., president of the SCABC board of directors, said the project is very different from when it started.
“The SCABC is going to be in control,” he said. “The SCABC’s position is to work for the people.”
King said Trillion Communications, who was in charge of the project originally, did not take into account feedback from those they were supposed to serve.
Josephine McCall, president of the Elmore Bolling Foundation, was one of the earliest supporters of a broadband project for Lowndes County.
“The main thing is that the SCABC is continually moving forward to make sure that the 17 or 18 counties in the Black Belt will eventually receive broadband,” she said.
Dr. Aaron D. McCall, managing director of the SCABC, said the educational campaign launched Tuesday (May 6) is meant to educate the public.t
On hand for Tuesday’s (May 6) press conference was Wilson Ellis of Sandy Ridge, a student at Hooper Academy, who wrote McCall to voice his support for the new campaign.
“I am writing to you in support of your proposed project. I think that the SCABC is a great thing and will help many people in the area that it is going to serve, Ellis said. “Nearly everyone in Alabama knows that the Black Belt is one of the most economically depressed areas of the state. I believe that this network will help our region of the state bounce back from its recent economic depression. The immediate benefit to me would be that it would allow me to further excel in school. Throughout my entire life I have lived with data-capped internet.”
Ellis said as an eighth grader, his parents can help him with math problems, but as he advances they may not be able to help.
“With this network, I would be able to watch a video tutorial on how to do it or I could even live chat with an online tutor for help,” he said.
He also citied opportunities for online courses for college credit.
Aaron McCall said there are also several opportunities for federal funding to put with the private funding the SCABC has already received to help pay for the project.
He said with private partner Oasis, 85 percent of the funding for the project has already been committed from private sources.
McCall said the SCABC is looking at the Farm Bill, talking to the FCC and partnering with schools and school systems to secure more funding.
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 was to construct 2,200 miles of fiber-optic broadband network in Butler, Crenshaw, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox counties and was to be funded by a $59 million in federal grant money 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.
Despite a “no confidence” resolution passed by the Lowndes County Commission, which called for the SCABC to dissolve itself, the SCABC board of directors met at Hayneville Town Hall in November of 2013 to announce a public/private partnership with Oasis Construction Services Inc. of Roswell, Ga.