Governor Kay Ivey welcomes launch of Alabama Fiber Network
Governor Kay Ivey welcomes launch of Alabama Fiber Network

CULLMAN, Alabama (WIAT) – The Alabama Fiber Network went live Wednesday and is designed to help close the broadband gap across the state.

Governor Kay Ivey delivered remarks at an event highlighting the launch of a new initiative. The Alabama Fiber Network, a coalition of eight electric cooperatives, will work together in all 67 counties to provide better internet to Alabama residents.

Ivey said Alabama ranks 24th in the country in broadband connectivity.

“However, as I said before, achieving full connectivity is a marathon, not a sprint,” Ivey said. “But we are well on our way. It is on days like today that we can see our progress.”

By building fiber optic lines, the coalition aims to connect underserved communities, with a focus on schools and health facilities. Terry Metze, CEO of Alabama Fiber Network, said the project could take up to three years to build out, but they are committed.

“Ciena is behind us. Alabama Power — this state probably has more engineering talent coming in than any other region right now to make this happen,” Metze said.

“The greatest thing in life is to have the love of God in your heart,” said Tom Stackhouse, chairman of Alabama Fiber Network. “…but the second greatest thing is to have broadband Internet service at the speed of light.”

Stackhouse said fiber optics can bring services to areas that would normally be inaccessible.

“In the areas where the service is already available, we are simply expanding and improving it,” Stackhouse said.

State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) said fiber optics could save a lot of money.

“I’m pleased with the funding,” Shedd said. “I thank the legislature, the governor and everyone else for getting us the funding that makes this project possible.”

Dale Greer, director of the Cullman Economic Development Agency, said the project opens a needed door.

“I think COVID showed us when we went home that we didn’t have the ability to allow students to learn. We didn’t have the ability to do business,” Greer said. “Everyone told us to work from home, but in most areas of Alabama, that wasn’t possible.”

Metze said the backbone of the project would be completed by March and the remaining construction would take until 2026.

By Aurora