Amendment allows millions to funnel into Lauderdale Co. internet expansion project
LAUDERDALE Co., Ala. (WAFF) - It’s much easier for many cities and counties to expand their broadband internet after amendment two passed in the 2022 election.
The amendment streamlines funding private broadband services to build internet infrastructure.
Almost 80% of voters voted ‘yes’ for the amendment: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize the state, a country, or a municipality to grant federal award funds or any other source of funding designated for broadband infrastructure by state law to public or private entities for providing or expanding broadband infrastructure.
The amendment cuts through a lot of the bureaucratic red tape outlined in the Alabama constitution that makes it extremely difficult to use city or county money for building internet infrastructure.
After passing the amendment, municipalities can use their own processes, like in a city council or county commission, to approve funding.
“A lot of these cities and counties have money directly flowed through to them to put in broadband but they can’t use it to actually put it in,” explains State Senator Sam Givhan. “It’s handcuffing them in so basically it (the amendment) allows them to be able to use that money to put it in use so we can get that broadband infrastructure in there.”
The new amendment paves the way for internet expansion in rural areas in North Alabama, like Lauderdale County.
Lauderdale County Commission Chair Danny Pettus says he’s been working on expanding the internet for five years and the last holdout was just fixed by the new amendment.
He wanted to use $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to expand broadband but they couldn’t use a cent of this money because of wording in Alabama’s constitution.
With the passing of the amendment, counties can now authorize funding on their own to expand internet access.
This is especially important in Lauderdale County where there are large swaths that don’t have any broadband capability at all.
Pettus says this could really help students who need to learn from home and adults working remotely.
“Several people in our county who work in Huntsville could be working from home and may even be people who have moved to other states,” says Pettus. “They could come back and work from home if we have this high speed.”
He says he hopes every county road will have internet access by the end of 2023.
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