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For Immediate Release: April 11, 2020

Crisis shows broadband need

For the last 6 or 7 years, Sen. Clay Scofield has been championing the need for widespread rural broadband Internet service in Alabama.

“I’m the resident broadband guy in the legislature,” he said.

Now, the COVID-19 pandemic shows just why he’s been so enthusiastic for expanding broadband. He said people need rural Internet service to work from home, for school children to access their lessons for distance learning and – perhaps, most importantly – for telemedicine, the ability of a person to communicate with a doctor or specialist in a time of medical need.

“What I am working on now with ADECA and providers is how can we temporarily deploy high speed Internet mobile hot spots quickly and inexpensively,” Sen. Scofield said.

Just this week, Marshall County School Supt. Cindy Wigley spoke about how mobile hot spots are key pieces of technology her system is issuing both educators and students so they can continue to do lessons through distance learning.

“I want to be able to come back with a supplemental appropriation that will help schools with funding the hot spots,” Sen. Scofield said. “It’s going to put a financial strain on our schools and we need to help out with some funding.”

He has called his work on rural broadband “a labor of love” and he said the state would be so much further ahead in dealing with the restraints caused by the COVID crisis if work on rural broadband had started 6 or 7 years ago.

“It is going to take years to build the infrastructure,” Sen. Scofield said.

Because of his efforts, the state now has a grant program to help Internet providers with the cost of rural infrastructure. It provided $7.4 million in funding 2 years ago and $20 million last year.

“I was hoping for $30 million this year,” Sen. Scofield said. “It’s very evident this crisis is causing needs in the 3 areas I had talked about previously – working from home, access to education and telemedicine.”

He hopes the crisis will lead to a new era in expanding rural broadband.

“Once this is all over, we don’t need to rest on our laurels,” he said. “We need to get more people connected. Heaven forbid a situation like this happens again.”

For More Information Contact: Marshall County Legislative Office, 256-582-0619

For More Information Visit This Website: Scofield-Crisis shows broadband need

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