Op-Ed: Continue broadband expansion

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Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview (Cullman Tribune file photo)

Can you imagine being without “city water” or electricity?

Without either of those utilities readily available, life would be difficult, and our local economy would be almost nonexistent.

Certainly, the poultry industry wouldn’t be what it is in our area today.

We can’t imagine being without electricity and “city water,” and one day, we’ll be saying the same about broadband/high-speed internet.

Broadband is an issue I’ve been championing since arriving in Montgomery. Finally, this past year we passed meaningful legislation that is going to transform our area and our state (HB400 and SB90).

Getting true high-speed internet at a reasonable price to all areas including rural Alabama is a game changer for our state.

The impact of the opportunity is so great. Telemedicine for our senior citizens and actually all ages, for example. Education for our children. Being able to do business anywhere and everywhere. It impacts all ages.

Even today, it is difficult to sell real estate without it.

You may have recently read about our area receiving grants to expand internet in the Smith Lake area. This came about through legislation (SB90) we passed this past year sponsored by Senator Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville. Hopefully, other internet carriers in our area will apply for these state grants to expand broadband.

The other broadband legislation we passed last year (HB400) authorizes electricity providers to use their existing and future power lines, rights-of-way and infrastructure to partner with companies to provide or expand broadband/telecommunications services or actually be in the business themselves.

I was honored to sponsor this legislation along with co-sponsor Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville in the House and Senator Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro in the Senate and a large rural broadband coalition that developed and helped get it passed, which included Governor Ivey and House and Senate leadership!

I am proud that Joe Wheeler Electric Cooperative is using the new law to provide high-speed internet and telephone services in Morgan and Lawrence Counties.

Their membership voted 93.62% to provide this service in their areas. A game changer!

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative in the Prattville area has already announced they are getting into the business using HB400.

Tombigbee Electric Cooperative in the Hamilton area is a trailblazer on this issue using USDA funding, state grants and HB400 to transform their service area with high-speed internet.

I know many others are doing feasibility studies and I hope we will see other announcements in the near future.

Continued broadband expansion is an issue I will stay focused on!

Just as with electricity and “city water” in rural areas, broadband for everybody won’t happen overnight, but because of the legislation we passed last year (HB400 and SB90) it will get to everybody much sooner!

I worked hard in the ‘70s and ‘80s to get “city water” throughout Cullman County. (In my job as chairman of the County Commission)

Cullman County was one of the first in the state to have near 100% population with “city water” which was a game changer for Cullman County.

That experience helped me in Montgomery to understand and explain the need for broadband legislation.

Thank y’all for letting me represent you in Montgomery!

Randall Shedd
District 11, Alabama
House of Representatives
1461 Welcome Road
Cullman, AL 35058
Cellular & Text 256.531.6641
Email randallshedd@icloud.com