Gov. Kay Ivey allocates $100 million to increase internet access for students

Gov. Kay Ivey allocates $100 million to increase internet access for students

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WAFF) - A number of students across Alabama do not have reliable access to internet. Governor Kay Ivey announced Friday a plan to help.

The Governor allocated $100 million in CARES Act funding to increase access to internet for K-12 students attending school in the fall.

Alabama Broadband Connectivity (ABC) for Students will provide vouchers for families of students currently eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, or other income criteria. The vouchers can be used to help cover equipment and service costs for high-speed internet service from the fall through Dec. 31, 2020.

“Despite the upheavals in our lives during the past few months and at least into the near future, children must be able to continue their classroom instruction,” Governor Ivey said.

“This funding will expand internet access to allow more students to access distance learning while creating smaller classes in schools that provide those options and will also ensure their safety during the pandemic. While I respect those districts that have elected to use remote learning, I fear that a slide will come by keeping our kids at home. These funds will bridge the gap until all students can get back into the classroom as soon as possible.”

The funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will be used to expand internet access by providing equipment and service for broadband, wireless hot spots, satellite, fixed wireless, DSL, and cellular-on-wheels. The type of internet service for an area will depend on the closest available infrastructure that is already in place.

Families with children who receive free or reduced school lunch will be notified via a mailed letter in August with more details on the program. These families may also visit the program website.

“Once again, we are appreciative of the leadership and resources provided by Governor Ivey during this unprecedented time in our country’s history. More than ever before, the immediate need for broadband infrastructure, devices, and connectivity are an integral part of providing Alabama students with a quality education,” Dr. Eric Mackey, Alabama superintendent of education, said.

“A huge part of evening the playing field to provide greater equity in educational services will come from closing the digital divide between varying Alabama communities. We still have a lot of work to do, but because of the resources provided by Gov. Ivey, we can head into what we know will be a challenging school year with greater optimism.”

The plan was formulated with the input of the Broadband Working Group, which includes legislators as well as industry experts, organized to gather input and guidance on allocation of CARES Act monies.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of Governor Ivey’s working group to utilize federal funds in the CARES Act to provide broadband access to all Alabama students regardless of income. I think Governor Ivey has a good plan,” Rep. Randall Shedd said, who is a member of the working group and a leader of the Rural Caucus as well as a supporter of broadband expansion efforts in the state.

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