SCABC can’t get together

Published 7:24 pm Thursday, April 11, 2013

The South Central Broadband Commission is actively pursing funding for a broadband project, but Thursday’s meeting scheduled for Selma City Hall failed to have a quorum and was rescheduled for April 25.

SCABC President Charlie King Jr. said Thursday two private sources of funding for a broadband project have been found. But he said the sources couldn’t be named “until the board approves all of the stuff we need to approve.”

Thursday’s meeting was to be held at 11 a.m. at Selma City Hall. However, only SCABC President Charlie King Jr., Selma Mayor George Evans and SCABC Managing Director Aaron McCall were present from the board of directors.

McCall, who is not a voting member of the board, said five board members were required to have a quorum.

Evans offered use of the Selma council chambers for rescheduled April 25 meeting.

The SCABC was originally formed to own and manage a broadband communications infrastructure designed to bridge the digital divide in South Central Alabama.

The original project was set to construct 2,200 miles of fiber-optic broadband network in eight counties including Butler, Crenshaw, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox.

The funding was to include a $59 million federal grant and $27 million in matching funds.

In October 2012, it was confirmed that a $59 million grant to Trillion Communications from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for the $86 million South Central Alabama Broadband Project in the eight Alabama counties was terminated.

Also in October, on the heels of termination of the South Central Alabama Broadband Project grant, the Lowndes County Commission voted to take possession of the Hayneville Plaza where the SCABC had its office and collected rent.

This January, it was announced at a Lowndes County Commission meeting that SCABC was still alive, had restructured its board of directors and had found private funding for a broadband project in the same footprint as the original project.

The SCABC board of directors met in Tuskegee in February and approved a joint resolution asking the federal government to reinstate the terminated broadband project grant.

They wanted the federal government to revisit its ruling on reinstating the terminated BTOP funds that had been awarded to Trillion Communication Corp and re-grant those funds to the SCABC.

A new plan announced at the time, according to McCall, was to connect 75,000 homes to the network. He said the first phase would be a wireless phase with the same capacity as the actual fiber with speeds up to one gigabyte, and the second phase would be cable in the ground.

On Feb. 6, a lawsuit was filed by the Lowndes County Commission against SCABC. It asked that rent money collected by the SCABC is property of the Lowndes County Commission, the SCABC be stopped from expending other funds, the SCABC make a full accounting of money collected and spent and the balance of money be paid to the county commission.

The SCABC was also named in a second lawsuit filed by the commission on Feb. 25.

King said Thursday he could not comment on lawsuits. However, he said the SCABC is now seeking to do both the wireless and fiber optic project at the same time.

Also in attendance Thursday, and representing the non-profit Elmore Bolling Foundation Inc., were Josephine McCall, Annie Bolling and Mary Brumby.

The Elmore Bolling Foundation promotes community-wide interest for the concerns of the disadvantaged.

“We want to see the project go through in Lowndes County,” McCall said. She said the residents of the county and children need it.