Broadband Interent to rural areas close to reality

Published 8:26 am Monday, May 23, 2011

An initiative to increase availability of Internet access is becoming a reality for many parts of rural Alabama — thanks to a grant awarded by th Department of Commerce last year.

During a Tuesday Escambia County Commission workshop meeting, representatives of A2D, the operating entity of the soon-to-be-constructed Internet access network, and the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission met with local leaders to update the group on plans for the project.

An $87 million project will be funded by the grant from the Department of Commerce and will be overseen by Trillion Communications Corporation.

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Commissioners were asked to consider joining SCABC as the governing body of the network by Aaron McCall.

SCABC will be the authority collectively responsible for the maintenance of the system, McCall said.

“The authority would take all liability for the operation of the system,” McCall said. “There would be no direct effect on local government for the actions of the commission.”

Commissioners agreed to consider the request after studying information about the authority and it’s responsibilities and liability possibilities.

Tony Shackleford, a representative of A2D, explained the process of the implementation of the system.

“There will be 22 miles of network covering eight counties,” Shackleford said. “The network would cover 97 unincorporated cities in the state. Trillion will be the responsible party for fiduciary management of the system’s construction.”

The Trillion team has formed a public/private partnership with the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC) to implement a neutral, community-owned, all-fiber with wireless canopy, broadband infrastructure that will deliver 100 percent middle mile and 20 percent last mil connectivity to economically distressed Lowndes, Dallas, Wilcox, Escambia, Conecuh, Crenshaw, and Macon Counties.

The planned network would provide an opportunity for residents in rural areas to receive access to an information network at competitive rates offered by a variety of servers, Shackleford said.

“Roads and streets are built and we can’t tell FedEx or DHL they are th only ones that can use the roads,” Shackleford said. “The same is true for this network. Consumers will be able to choose which provider they will use for service to the Internet.”

The project is expected to see the beginning of construction within the coming months, Shackleford said.