Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students program extended into 2021

The program had been set to expire Dec. 31, 2020

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Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced the extension of the Alabama Broadband Connectivity (ABC) for Students program through the spring semester of 2021, thanks to a provision in the latest COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress last week and signed by President Donald Trump Sunday evening.

The ABC for Students program provides vouchers for families of K-12 students currently eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, or other income criteria. The vouchers help cover equipment and service costs for high-speed internet service.

Cullman’s Cyber Broadband Owner Jay Fuller said that while the program is not accepting new applicants for the extended service, internet service providers have been notified of new contracts extending their service with the program recipients. The program’s website (abcstudents.org) also has a link to low-cost internet service offers for people to use once the vouchers are discontinued.

Ivey’s office said the governor’s goal is to ensure that the families currently benefiting from ABC for Students have continuity of service through the program, which has provided access to high-speed internet for about 200,000 Alabama students throughout the fall and was slated to end on the original CARES Act spending deadline of Dec. 30, 2020. The relief package included an extension into 2021 of the federal deadline for states to spend CARES Act funds allocated earlier in 2020. The current funding is anticipated to cover the costs for current participants through the spring semester of 2021.

“Alabama has led nationally with this innovative program via CARES Act funding to ensure that students can participate in distance-learning during the pandemic,” Ivey said. “I am extremely grateful to President Trump and Congress for including the funding extension, and most of all, I am pleased that we will continue to offer this assistance to the families who are signed up for the program. My hope is that this extension is welcome news for both parents and students during an unusual and difficult school year.”

The governor’s office said the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) is managing the ABC for Students program for the state and is working with its partner CTC Technology & Energy to notify participating internet service providers of the extension for current program participants with the goal of minimal disruption in service. Updated information for current participants will be posted in the near future to the program website at www.abcstudents.org or they may call the toll-free hotline at (888) 212-4998.

It said ADECA partnered with CTC to develop the ABC for Students program to implement the first-of-its-kind program statewide in a very short and accelerated timeframe in July and August. Back in the fall, families that qualified for the National School Lunch Program received vouchers to cover the cost of equipment, installation and internet service through 42 providers that partnered with the state for the program. ADECA also administers the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, which provides grant funding to expand broadband service in the state.

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Heather Mann

heather@cullmantribune.com