White Hall kickoff meeting explores broadband gaps, opportunities

Published 1:19 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2022

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The Town of White Hall will host an Alabama Community Broadband Technical Assistance Program in-person kickoff event for Lowndes County on Tuesday at Jackson Steele Elementary School at 5:30 p.m.

Representatives from the Digital Division of the Alabama Department of Community Affairs (ADECA) will be on hand to hear and record perspectives and experiences of broadband gaps and opportunities from local citizens, non-profits, government leaders, and community-based organizations.

“We applied for and were awarded an ADECA grant for technical assistance,” said White Hall Mayor Delmartre Bethel. “[ADECA] representatives will come and help with an initial assessment, to see what the broadband needs are. We’re still in the planning phases and will have more information after the meeting.”

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Bethel said active community collaboration will result in a county-specific profile with strategic approaches for achieving broadband goals and positioning communities for broadband funding opportunities.

ADECA is the lead agency at the state government level for broadband expansion in unserved areas. According to ADECA Communications and External Affairs Unit Chief Mike Presley, a significant part of the agency’s efforts have focused on statewide planning and mapping progressively over the past few years.

Grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration enable ADECA to extend efforts down to the county level and Lowndes County is one of the first 10 counties to receive technical assistance.

Presley said different groups — elected leaders, internet service providers, government and community anchors and community-based organizations will meet early on Tuesday to share information.

“A session at 5:30 p.m. will help members of the public to understand more about broadband technologies and mapping data and to give them an opportunity to voice their experiences in accessing and using the internet, including any barriers or obstacles they have experienced,” Presley said. “The end result of this process is that the county will have a plan and data that aligns with the state’s plan and mapping.”

Evelyn Causey, President and Chief Operating Officer at Hayneville Telephone Company, will be present at the meeting to share HTC’s part in providing broadband services to county residents.

“This is an open door for broadband providers to come and speak to what they are doing,” Causey said.  “It’s not directed at any certain internet provider. It’s directed at all providers.

“We’re putting federal money [from a grant through the Rural Utilities Services ReConnect Program] in the ground and $25 million is a lot of money. We all want to be careful not to build duplicated networks.”

For more information, visit the news section of adeca.alabama.gov/broadband.