By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
Broadband company C Spire will begin to install its ultra-fast fiber-based Gigabit speed internet and related service in Jasper and Trussville in the coming weeks as part of an initiative to improve the state’s rural broadband access.
In a virtual press conference on Thursday, C Spire executives and Alabama lawmakers said this is the first step in improving the state’s broadband reach and to ensure all Alabamians have fast internet connections.
“We’re excited about bringing high-capacity fiber broadband services, which rely on a transformational and truly revolutionary technology infrastructure that will boost home and business values, broaden entertainment opportunities, help expand local economies and improve the quality of life for Alabamians,” said Ben Moncrief, managing director in Alabama for C Spire.
Moncrief said that construction in Jasper will begin in about two weeks and then in Trussville shortly after. Moncrief explained that the two cities were the first to get this services because lawmakers representing them were the first to reach out to C Spire months ago.
Jasper Mayor David O’Mary said the town plans to leverage the infrastructure to help continue the city’s efforts to improve the quality of life for residents and the economic environment for businesses.
“C Spire Fiber will help us continue to transform our community into a 21st digital powerhouse,” he said.
Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, echoed O’Mary’s plans and said the town is poised to reap the benefits of broader business expansion, job opportunities and growth.
“Gigabit broadband internet is a game-changer for Jasper and other towns who are trying to grow and diversify their economy,” Rowe said.
C Spire is doing this in partnership with Alabama Power to use its existing fiber infrastructure to provide that “last mile” of broadband coverage in order to access the hard-to-reach rural areas of the state.
This partnership was made possible by legislation passed in the 2019 regular session, House Bill 400, which allows companies to run new fiber lines into rural areas through already existing utility lines.
Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, was a supporter of that legislation and also sponsored Senate Bill 90, which expanded eligibility for and updated a state grant program for broadband expansion.
Reed said on Thursday that this partnership between Alabama Power and C Spire will help all of those professions and students who need this broadband coverage, especially now with the concerns of the coronavirus pandemic. State lawmakers have made increasing broadband access across the state a priority as more of Alabama’s workforce and students have had to move online because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“No matter where you live, every single student, apartment dweller, family, worker and business owner in Alabama deserves access to fast, reliable internet and C Spire is helping make that a reality with this announcement today,” Reed said.
In January, The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs released an updated map of the broadband coverage areas in Alabama which showed about half of the state’s landmass being labeled as “unserved.”
On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey also announced she awarded $2.9 million in grants for seven separate projects to expand broadband in the state. About $18.5 million has been awarded to expand high-speed internet access to mostly unserved areas as part of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund.
For more information about C Spire’s fiber broadband rollout in the state, go to www.cspire.com/alfiber.