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Content tagged with "alabama"
Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure: A Telehealth Case Study of Ten Southern Rural Counties
In a new report, published in partnership with the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI), the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative examines the link between high-speed Internet infrastructure, access to healthcare, and the economic implications involved.
The report –“Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure: A Telehealth Case Study of Ten Southern Rural Counties” has particular relevance for those living in rural broadband deserts as it details how universal, affordable, broadband infrastructure would return $43 million per year using telehealth across 10 counties in the Black Belt of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Read Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure: A Telehealth Case Study of Ten Southern Rural Counties [pdf].
It explains how robust broadband infrastructure could pay for itself in short order and open up untold access to healthcare, educational opportunities, economic development, community engagement, and other benefits along the way. This issue is particularly relevant today, because the BEAD program represents a once-in-a-generation investment in broadband infrastructure, larger than any other federal grant program many times over. While it will solve the issue of access to infrastructure for most rural households, we have significant concerns about affordability - BEAD will lead to new connections, but states have wide latitude as to which ISPs get those funds to build new connections. The national monopolies have a long history of charging more to exactly the communities that can’t pay as much, leaving many households out. The report argues that electric cooperatives offer better and more locally accountable paths to universal, affordable service.
Drawing on academic scholarship and existing telehealth programs at hospitals around the country, the report focuses on an assortment of chronic health ailments plaguing those counties, such as diabetes, chronic respiratory disease (including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, heart disease, heart failure, cancer, obesity, and mental health and then demonstrates the benefits that could come from effective telehealth interventions for each
New Report: Universal Broadband Infrastructure Would Return $43 million Annually to Counties Across Rural Black Belt
In partnership with the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI), today ILSR is releasing a new report that examines the link between high-speed Internet infrastructure, access to healthcare, and the economic implications involved.
The report – “Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure: A Telehealth Case Study of Ten Southern Rural Counties” – has particular relevance for those living in rural broadband deserts as it details how universal, affordable, broadband infrastructure would return $43 million per year using telehealth across 10 counties in the Black Belt of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.
At a virtual press briefing today, SRBWI leaders and organizers were joined by Dr. Sandra B. Reed of Emory Healthcare; as well as ILSR Senior Researcher and the report’s lead author, Ry Marcattilio, to explain how robust broadband infrastructure could pay for itself in short order and open up untold access to healthcare, educational opportunities, economic development, community engagement, and other benefits along the way.
“It’s easy to miss the connection, but hard to overlook what’s at stake as rural hospitals close and the cost of transportation to get to far-off healthcare facilities presents a real barrier. This is about access to healthcare and Black women being denied the opportunity to take advantage of telehealth. The broadband infrastructure that’s needed for that just isn’t there,” said Shirley Sherrod, SRBWI State Lead for Georgia and Director of the Southwest Georgia Project in Albany Georgia.
Broadband … to Access Longer, Healthier Lives
Aneta Lee, FUSE Corps Fellow in Birmingham, Alabama on Episode 6 of the Building for Digital Equity Podcast
At the time of this interview at Net Inclusion, Aneta Lee was wrapping up her FUSE Corps Fellowship with the city of Birmingham in Alabama. We talk about the FUSE Corps Fellowship and her time at the city of Birmingham. Aneta discusses the ACP outreach campaign she put together and where she sees her future taking her - HINT, it could be to your community if you act fast!
This show is 15 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or see other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
As voters went to the polls yesterday, broadband-focused initiatives and candidates could be found up and down the ballot all across the country.
Alabama voters cast their ballots to decide on a state Constitutional amendment known as the Broadband Internet Infrastructure Funding Amendment. The measure sought to amend the state's constitution "to allow local governments to use funding provided for broadband internet infrastructure under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and award such funds to public or private entities."
That measure passed, garnering a “Yes” vote from nearly 80 percent of Alabama voters. With 73 percent of the vote counted late last night, 922,145 “Yes” votes had been tallied with 251,441 “No” votes.
Also in Alabama, Democratic U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell won her re-election bid to represent Alabama’s 7th congressional district. Sewell, whose district covers a large swath of the Alabama Black Belt, “spent much of her past two years in office bringing American Rescue Plan Act funds to rural Alabama, dedicated to healthcare, broadband access and infrastructure building,” as noted by The Montgomery Advertiser.
The Centennial State is not listed as one of 17 states in the nation with preemption laws that erect barriers to municipal broadband because nearly every community that had a vote has passed it to nullify it. But more communities had to go through that unnecessary process yesterday due to the law known as SB-152 that bans local governments in the state from establishing municipal broadband service absent a referendum.
Alabama and New Mexico voters will soon be given the midterm option of changing their state constitutions to help boost broadband funding and deployment, albeit in notably different ways.
In Alabama, voters will head to the polls on November 8th to vote on a Broadband Internet Infrastructure Funding Amendment that would amend the state's constitution "to allow local governments to use funding provided for broadband internet infrastructure under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and award such funds to public or private entities."
County leaders have spent much of this year warning that Section 94 of the Alabama Constitution bans the state from granting public money or “things of value” to local governments for public and private use. That’s a significant problem when it comes to the $276 million in ARPA funds Alabama Governor Kay Ivey earmarked for broadband expansion last March.
Programs such as the USDA’s ReConnect and the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) haven’t run afoul of the Alabama Constitution because they both involve the federal government directly doling out funds for broadband expansion. But ARPA funding allows local municipalities to distribute a portion of state-allocated funds.
In June of 2020, Cullman Electric Cooperative launched Sprout Fiber Internet, a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network to bring broadband access to its members in rural Alabama. Sprout Fiber has taken significant strides since then, connecting its 1,300th subscriber in October of 2021.
By July of 2020, Sprout Fiber had started the first phase of network construction, with plans to connect 25 percent of Cullman’s membership – or 12,000 households – by spring of 2022. Sprout’s first customer was connected in January 2021. By the following September, Sprout was serving “over 1,000 broadband customers and handling about 12 activations per day,” with a little under half of its Phase I deployment finished. This puts its take rate around 20 percent in less than a year. By November, Sprout Fiber had completed a fiber ring backbone to connect its offices and substations.
Expanding Access and Choices
Local competition includes AT&T and Charter Spectrum, which offer service to the town of Cullman itself but not to its surrounding areas. Several wireless and satellite providers also offer service locally. There is significant demand for Sprout Fiber’s service, however, including from members in gap areas that don’t have other options for high-speed Internet access. According to Sprout Fiber, “twenty-five percent of [its] service territory still does not have any access to [the] Internet, and other areas do not have access to a quality Internet connection.”
Guided by member demand and targeting areas without existing robust broadband infrastructure, Sprout Fiber plans to expand broadband service into ten new areas and to 9,000 additional members in 2022 (see map below, with green areas live right now, with pink scheduled to go live early in 2022 and purple to follow thereafter. For a high-resolution version of the map, click here). Cullman Electric CEO Tim Culpepper told members:
Report: Six Community Broadband Networks Demonstrate Diversity of Approaches to Connectivity Challenges
There are more than 600 wireline municipal broadband networks operating across the United States today. And while the ongoing discussion about our information infrastructure by Congress has placed a renewed emphasis on publicly owned endeavors to improving Internet access, the reality is that cities around the country have been successfully demonstrating the wide variety of successful approaches for decades.
In this report, published by the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, ILSR's Sean Gonsalves, Christopher Mitchell, and Jericho Casper profile how six community networks in a diverse range of places stepped up to meet the needs of their communities, bringing faster, more reliable, and more affordable service.
- Huntsville, Alabama
- Conway, Arkansas
- Ocala, Florida
- Dalton, Georgia
- Ammon, Idaho
- Cheshire County, New Hampshire
The projects above, the report shows, run the gamut from municipally owned and operated fiber networks, to cable system upgrades, to last-mile open access networks, to public-private partnerships.
Communities seeking to create a more competitive broadband market and/or target low-income neighborhoods with high-quality, modestly priced service are increasingly building their own networks, whether in partnership with ISPs or on their own. Local governments considering this option have to do their homework to find appropriate consultants, vendors, business models, and more.
But as the communities profiled here demonstrate, there are many models and opportunities to improve Internet access.
The winners of the Truist EPIC grant program, which we wrote about earlier this year, have been announced.
47 projects applied for the funds. Innovative, community-centered projects in Florida and Alabama will be taking home money. So too is Wilson, North Carolina for an expansion of its municipal network, Greenlight. The awards will be distributed by the Internet Society:
Five recipients will share $1 million in grant funding to expand broadband access in their communities as part of the Truist Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant. The grant program supports broadband initiatives to help alleviate disparities in education, employment and social welfare in the Southeastern United States.
The grants are "directed toward supporting community networks built, owned and operated by local governments and organizations."
The full list includes:
Fifteen years ago, Covington Electric Cooperative (CEC) was the first in the southeast region of Alabama to bring its members online with dial-up Internet access. And while it has since left the broadband business, it announced at the beginning of April it plans to come back in a big way, connecting all of its members once again through its new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, Buzz Broadband.
Buzz Broadband is a new subsidiary that will provide FTTH broadband service to members across its six-county territory and more than 23,000 households. CEC chose the name, because “like the mighty bee, high-speed broadband is a force to be reckoned with. Having fast and reliable access to such technology takes the sting out of meeting deadlines, virtual learning, working from home and running a business.”
CEC started building out the backbone in January and is on track to finish by the end of this month, with the first members coming online this fall. According to CEC’s 2021 Annual Report, “expansion to all CEC members will be done in phases and will take a few years to be complete.”
Initially, the FTTH build out was supposed to take four years, but with all the enthusiasm around the network, Short asked the board if CEC could fast track the build out to two years. He said that’s what they are aiming for, and when Buzz Broadband was announced, it was made clear that the board is “committed to making high-speed fiber broadband access available to every CEC member by 2025, if not sooner.”
“We’re on track to invest $65 to $70 million in two years, where our electric plan was only $180 million give or take, and it took us 77 years to get to that point,” Short said. “It’s quite an accelerated cash flow.”
North Carolina Governor budgets $1.2 billion of Rescue Plan funds towards closing the digital divide
Vermont Senate includes private ISPs in what was a community-based solution to universal access
Alabama Governor approves $17 million in broadband grants, some to Comcast and Charter Spectrum
The State Scene
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper released a budget proposal last Wednesday that anticipates using $1.2 billion of incoming federal COVID-19 relief funds towards broadband infrastructure, affordability initiatives, and expanding digital literacy. With North Carolina set to receive a total of $5.7 billion in federal American Rescue Plan funds, Gov. Cooper is dedicating nearly one-fifth of the incoming relief to closing the digital divide.
Next, the State House, Senate, and the North Carolina General Assembly will create their proposals for how to spend the relief funding. Then, they'll have to rectify any differences. Each chamber's plans could look similar to the governor's or vastly different.
Gov. Cooper’s proposal specifically allocates [pdf]:
$600 million towards expanding broadband infrastructure, including: $350 million for the state’s existing last-mile grant program (GREAT grants), $150 million for competitive bidding which will allow county governments to leverage the funds for public-private partnerships, and $100 million towards stop gap solutions “to address local infrastructure needs and connect underserved households not likely to get fiber for three to four years.”
$420 million towards affordability initiatives which will subsidize low-income service plans.
$165 million for digital literacy, including: $40 million towards device support to provide computers to 96,000 households which currently lack them; $30 million towards break/fix services to replace devices for over 275,000 North Carolinians; and $95 million towards community-based digital literacy campaigns.
The plan aims to connect 100 percent of North Carolina households with children to high-speed Internet access by 2025, and anticipates the affordability initiatives in the proposed budget will provide 380,000 individuals with a $50/month subsidy for four years.