MERIDIAN, Mississippi (WTOK) – The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced that the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund will expand its cash rewards to four new states, including Alabama, bringing affordable high-speed internet to nearly 292,000 new homes.
The ARPA funds are part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in 2021. It’s an opportunity for internet companies to bridge the digital divide and help people access broadband internet.
“When the pandemic happened, we learned pretty quickly that without those connections, a lot of people find it very difficult not only to be part of society and the community, but also to be social because we also connect to each other. As these things came to light, the infrastructure bill was designed to help in a number of ways to connect the unconnected and the people who are struggling to stay connected,” said Doug Lodder, president of the Freemium Wireless Internet and telephone service provider TruConnect.
News 11 spoke to Lodder about how these funds will help businesses like his provide better connectivity for Alabama residents, particularly low-income families.
“In terms of our business, one of our biggest challenges is the rural community. Even though we target a lot and really the people that we can help the most, it’s difficult because when you think about what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to connect people who might not be connected yet and stuff like that often we have to go to the communities that sometimes we have to knock on doors. You know you need to shop at the local grocery store and I think that’s really what we’re most excited about, not just the funds being newly released to support the network we rely on, but also the fact that this is the case gives us more opportunities to offer the services in Alabama than we already offer,” said Lodder.
There has been much talk over the years of broadband coming to rural areas, but when will this actually become a reality in these communities?
“I always want to remind people that when it comes to wireless devices, there are a lot of wires. It doesn’t just turn on and go. Unfortunately, the amount of infrastructure required to find the right locations, find the right ways, figure out where to get power, where to get access, and bring it in is no small challenge. It’s just one of those challenges that Take time. Knowing the government is behind it, knowing the cities are in favor, knowing the counties are trying to speed it up. For me that’s a really good sign that it’s going to go faster,” said Lodder.
To enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to be eligible for free internet and phone service, visit https://www.fcc.gov/acp or www.truconnect.com
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