With the passage of House Bill 400, Alabama has joined the growing list of states taking steps to bring internet access to their rural residents. The bill in entitled the Telecommunications, Broadband Using Electric Easement Accessibility Act. The bill is sponsored, notes the Alabama Political Reporter, by Representative Randall Shedd.
Speaking on the importance of passing this legislation, Shedd said, “We have all seen the map with whole counties in red with declining populations. Young people will not stay where they are not connected to the worldwide web, they just won’t. Realtors say that the first question homebuyers ask now is about the internet access.”
Despite some initial opposition, the bill passed with a 92 – 2 vote. In conjunction with HB400, the Alabama Senate voted for $20 million in funding towards the Rural Broadband Grant Program via the education trust fund budget. Senator Arthur Orr explained that the money will help establish WiFi hotspots in all high schools. Orr said that there are currently many students who drive many miles to the nearest McDonalds, simply so they can go online to do their homework. This agrees with Shedd’s statement that 850,000 Alabamans do not have in-home broadband access.
Governor Kay Ivey continues to advocate for broadband outreach across her state. Both the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) and the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) joined legislators in expressing their approval of House Bill 400.
May 7, 2019