Council hears broadband proposition

Published 10:03 am Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Luverne City Council heard a proposal that they join the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC) at Monday’s council meeting, but the city took no action.

Dr. Aaron McCall of Hayneville, the SCABC executive regional program manager, was on hand to talk to the council about joining the commission.

“I’m here to ask you to consider passing a resolution to come into the district to help move the project forward,” he said.

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The more than $86 million project will employ up to 1,200 workers and will impact Escambia, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Butler, Wilcox, Lowndes, Dallas and Macon counties.

Overall, the project will have more than $59 million in federal funds and about $27 million in matching funds for a total of $86 million.

The cooperative is based out of Lowndes County, and McCall said that the usual procedure wasn’t followed when forming the SCABC because of time limits imposed by the government.

McCall said the SCABC had 45 days to for the commission, which didn’t allow for visits to every county and municipality involved, so that is currently what he is doing.

Corporate partners for the project include Trillian Communications Corporation, A2D Incorporated and A-Plus Community Solutions Inc.

“This hasn’t been done anywhere in the U.S.,” he said. “If this works, our network will be the model for community-led and community-owned broadband. We just have until June 12 to get everyone on board.”

One question raised by mayor Joe Rex Sport involved Troy Cable.

“Troy Cable has been provided a grant for the southeast region of the state, and I wrote a letter supporting that,” he said. “Since we are already included in that one, how do we get included in this one?”

Troy Cable received $26 million last September for the Southeast Alabama SmartBand project, which will cover Pike, Crenshaw, Coffee and Dale counties.

McCall explained that there is an understanding that the two grants would come together and negotiate the areas where the two meet.

“What bothers me is that I sat in meetings with Troy Cable… and I thought it was a great idea. They got the grant, and then here we come and someone is competing,” Sport said.

McCall said that the SCABC is not competing with Troy Cable.

“Think of me as a developer,” he said. “Let’s say I’ve developed a road to get into a subdivision, and the road is built to your standards. Once it’s built, I offer it to you, and after you accept it, you maintain it. We aren’t competing with Troy Cable at all. We have a letter from Troy Cable that they intend to be an internet service provider and drive on the ‘road’ we’ve built.”

Sport recommended that the council take time to investigate the matter before taking part in the SCABC.

“I feel like we need to invite someone from Troy Cable over to discuss their agreement before I recommend anything to the council,” he said. “Then we’ll take appropriate action at that time.”

In other business, the council mandated that all city departments — street, water, sewer and electric — will have to wear safety vests when working in the streets.