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Government/Co-op Partnership Connecting NW Alabama to Fiber Service

Randy Sukow

The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday said that it is awarding a $2.9 million grant to Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, Hamilton, AL, to connect rural residents of Marion County with fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections. The grant through USDA’s Community Connect program will go toward connecting more than 400 homes with high-speed internet and toward establishing a community center in the town of Brilliant, AL, where area residents can go online for free.

The federal assistance will be a significant step to completing the co-op’s current fiber construction project. “So far Tombigbee has invested $10 million of its own funds. We have completed over 400 miles of fiber cable,” said President and CEO Steve Foshee during a live online announcement yesterday from a high school gym in Hamilton. “We have another 1,600 miles to go. We intend to get to the most rural parts of northwest Alabama. We’re coming.”

“Today is a day about partnerships … partnerships between the state and the federal government and partnerships of government entities with Tombigbee. When we are willing to work together, good things happen,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey at the event (pictured).

“I am honored to be here today … to participate as really a junior partner,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “That’s what we want to be in these kinds of efforts. We need institutions like Tombigbee having the vision and understanding of what 1 gigabit service brings.”

Representative Robert Aderholt (R), who serves the Hamilton, AL, area in Congress, praised Foshee and the Tombigbee board of directors for leading the broadband project.  “This is an example of how local money works together with federal programs to open up opportunities for rural communities,” Aderholt said.

USDA says that it is accepting applications for the next round of Community Connect Grants through May 14.

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