Broadband Association calls for focus on unserved areas

Published 3:33 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Alabama Cable and Broadband Association (ACBA) on Monday called for any additional federal relief funds for expanding access to broadband in the state to be reserved for unserved rural areas “without preference for a specific technology.”

A press release from the organization notes that, with Alabama poised to receive an estimated $1.7 billion in federal relief dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, some state senators have begun calling for roughly as much as $800 million to be used for deploying broadband internet across the state.

While ACBA Executive Director Michelle Roth stated that Alabama cable providers welcome the additional investment of federal dollars toward improved broadband access, she noted that prioritizing investment in typically underserved areas would be essential.

“We share the view that broadband plays an important role in education, healthcare, economic development and other quality of life measures across our state,” Roth said. “What that said, we firmly believe any new public funding should focus first on those that currently have no options available for broadband internet access. While cable providers already offer broadband services to 1.8 million homes and businesses in Alabama, our efforts continue to include bringing this access to areas of our state that currently have no broadband options.”

Roth added that such funds intended for broadband expansion should be “technology neutral,” which means that no particular technology will be tapped for priority funding over another.

“While some areas may be better suited by fiber, coaxial cable, satellite or other forms of wireless, utilizing a one-size-fits-all approach that favors a particular technology over others is fundamentally unfair and, more significantly, could delay the most timely and efficient deployment of broadband,” Roth said. “It is critical that all stakeholders play a part in pursuit of this important goal.”

The ACBA was founded in 1965 as a “unified voice on issues affecting the cable and telecommunications industry” and, today, provides rural, urban and suburban broadband services to all 67 counties in the state.

“As the country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cable industry continues to work to ensure that Americans remain connected to one another and their communities,” Roth said. “The industry is focused on delivering fast and reliable service to enable their customers to have access to critical resources in this time of need.