Cullman EC awarded $4.58M Broadband Accessibility Fund grant

Grant to provide broadband access for 1,356 households, businesses and community anchors in Cullman, Morgan and Winston counties

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(Cullman Electric Cooperative/Facebook)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Nine grants, totaling $24.72 million, were awarded to broadband providers across the state to support projects in unserved or underserved areas of Alabama. Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced the grants Friday.  

One of those grants – $4.58 million – was awarded to the Cullman Electric Cooperative to provide broadband access for 1,356 households, businesses and community anchors in parts of Cullman, Morgan and Winston counties. 

Ivey’s office said the completed projects will enable nearly 20,000 households, businesses and community anchors to have access to high-speed internet. 

“Broadband continues to be a top priority of my administration, and as we continue to move into these next four years, we’re taking our broadband journey with us,” said Ivey. “The projects underway reach across the state and will allow better access to opportunities in education, health care, business and other normalcies of life. Broadband is vital infrastructure, and our map continues to light up. I am pleased to support these transformative projects as we work toward achieving high-speed internet availability for every Alabamian.” 

Households and businesses must subscribe to paid service to receive broadband. Broadband providers only supply the access, but households and businesses must still pay for connecting to the service. The expansion will also provide additional links to make it more feasible to supply future broadband service within those areas. 

The Cullman Electric Cooperative said in a statement:  

“Cullman Electric Cooperative was pleased to learn the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) announced today it has approved a grant for $4,579,716.92 to assist the co-op with its Sprout Fiber Internet project. 

“Grant writing is a difficult and time-consuming task with no guaranteed return on those efforts. We are excited to learn that the hours of hard work put into the application process by Cullman Electric’s dedicated employees has resulted in grant money that will directly benefit co-op members. 

“The ADECA grant will help bring Sprout Fiber Internet to more than 1,300 households, 33 businesses and 23 anchor institutions* in Cullman, Winston and Morgan counties, moving Cullman Electric closer to its ultimate goal of providing Sprout Fiber Internet to all co-op members. Some of the grant-funded locations are included in Sprout’s 2023 expansion plan, and the grant’s money will be used to offset budgeted expenses. Some areas that received funding are in Sprout’s future phases and will be included as part of our 2024 expansion plan. 

“We are grateful to our state legislative delegation of Senator Garlan Gudger, Representative Randall Shedd, Representative Corey Harbison and Representative Tim Wadsworth for recognizing the need to expand broadband fiber internet services in our area. 

“Representative Shedd, who serves as the co-chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee on Rural Broadband and is vice-chair of the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority, has been an outspoken advocate of Sprout Fiber Internet and for broadband expansion throughout rural communities in his district and across Alabama. We cannot thank him enough for his support. 

“The team at ADECA, specifically Director Kenneth Boswell and Division Chief for the Digital Expansion Division Maureen Neighbors, are doing exceptional work to make sure these funds are being used effective to improve the quality of life in rural communities. We appreciate their commitment to helping Alabamians that need access to high-speed broadband internet. 

“Cullman Electric Cooperative is a member-owned cooperative serving more than 46,000 member accounts in Cullman, Winston, Lawrence and Morgan counties. 

“* ADECA defines community anchors to be libraries, schools, police and fire stations, health care facilities, churches or other similar places.” 

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) administers Broadband Accessibility Fund grants from state government funds allocated by the Legislature. Funds are issued through ADECA’s Alabama Digital Expansion Division, which was created by legislation signed by Ivey in 2021 to focus on broadband expansion in Alabama. 

Including the grants announced Friday, Ivey has awarded Broadband Accessibility Fund grants totaling $88.6 million to support 109 projects across Alabama since the fund’s start in 2018. 

“ADECA is honored to be administering this program that will improve the lives of so many Alabamians,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “It is our goal to carry out our duties with this program efficiently and effectively and in the best manner conceivable so that we reach as many Alabamians as possible.” 

Grants awarded and affected areas are: 

Cullman, Morgan and Winston counties 

Cullman Electric Cooperative – $4.58 million to provide broadband access for 1,356 households, businesses and community anchors in parts of Cullman, Morgan and Winston counties. 

Winston County  

Spectrum Southeast – $351,119 to provide broadband services for 715 households, businesses and anchors in the vicinity of Double Springs and Lynn. 

Tuscaloosa County  

Spectrum Southeast – $2.45 million to provide broadband service access for 2,204 households, businesses and community anchors in the vicinity of Coaling, Vance and Woodstock. 

Bibb County  

Spectrum Southeast – $1.02 million to provide broadband accessibility for up to 2,482 households, businesses and anchors in the vicinities of Brent, Centreville, Vance, West Blocton and Woodstock. 

Shelby County  

Spectrum Southeast – $2.92 million to provide broadband service in the areas of Calera, Columbiana, Montevallo, Westover and Wilsonville with the potential to affect 4,412 households, businesses and community anchors. 

Baldwin and Escambia counties 

Mediacom- $4.05 million to provide broadband service connectivity for 1,756 households, businesses and community anchors in northwest Baldwin County and southwest Escambia County between Bay Minette and Atmore. 

Baldwin County  

Mediacom – $2.91 million to provide internet access affecting 1,895 households, businesses and community anchors in an area near the city of Robertsdale. 

Mobile County  

Mediacom- $3.11 million to provide access for 2,824 households, businesses and community anchors near the communities of Grand Bay and Wilmer. 

Mediacom- $3.31 million to provide broadband service availability for 1,715 households, businesses and community anchors near Mount Vernon.