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Alabama Power and Tombigbee Electric Cooperative partner to expand broadband internet in Northwest Alabama

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 6:48 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Tombigbee Communications’ freedom FIBER, a subsidiary of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, and Alabama Power have announced a partnership Friday to expand rural broadband and high-speed fiber internet service to residents and businesses in Fayette County.

“We are excited to continue the deployment of broadband throughout Northwest Alabama alongside our longtime partner, Alabama Power,” said Steve Foshee, President & CEO of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative. “We both work hard every day to serve our customers and position rural Alabama for growth and prosperity. It’s also important to recognize we have elected officials across the state and in Washington D.C. who understand that continued deployment of broadband is crucial to keeping our rural communities and state moving forward.”

As the state’s first broadband partnership between an electric cooperative and investor-owned utility, Tombigbee Communications and Alabama Power will join forces to use existing infrastructure to offer broadband services. Tombigbee Communications will lease available capacity on fiber infrastructure, used by Alabama Power on its electric grid for reliable and resilient service, as additional support for its backbone network to reach and connect Fayette County with high-speed internet.

“The communities in our state need high-speed internet to thrive in today’s digitally driven world,” said Mark Crews, vice president of Western Division for Alabama Power. “Our partnership with Tombigbee Communications highlights the importance and value of businesses joining together to help bridge our state’s digital divide and lift up unserved and underserved rural areas.”

Recent laws signed by Gov. Kay Ivey related to broadband pave the way for cooperative and utility partnerships. House Bill 400 (Broadband Using Electric Easement Accessibility Act), signed in 2019, allows electric providers the ability to use their existing infrastructure and easements to support high-speed internet.

Since then, Alabama Power has forged partnerships with broadband providers to support high- speed internet offerings throughout the state, including C Spire in Jasper and Trussville and Point Broadband on Lake Martin.

Tombigbee Communications offers freedom FIBER—a world-class fiber to the home network. Its goal is to connect the way to a better future for Northwest Alabama with future plans to serve all of Marion and Lamar County, a majority of Fayette County and portions of Winston, Franklin and Walker Counties.

“We applaud this partnership for building off the framework we established in the legislature to expand broadband options for Fayette County,” said Sen. Greg Reed. “Reliable and affordable high-speed internet impacts almost every area of our life and it is a needed resource to ensure the success and growth of our rural areas and small towns.”

The growth and expansion of broadband services is an important focus area for states across the nation and at the federal level.

“I applaud this first of a kind partnership between Tombigbee Communications and Alabama Power,” said Congressman Robert Aderholt. “New partnerships and fresh ways of thinking are what will close the digital divide. Expanding broadband in Alabama has been one of my top priorities in Congress and will continue to be until we have rural America connected as well as the urban and suburban areas of our country. Our families, businesses and communities all deserve fast, reliable broadband regardless of where they call home.”

High-speed internet services are expected to be available to Fayette County residents and businesses in spring of 2022. To learn more, visit freedomfiber.com.

“High-speed broadband is an essential element in providing the opportunity for economic and population growth in Fayette County,” said Fayette County Probate Judge Mike Freeman. “The teamwork between Alabama Power and Tombigbee Communications’ freedom FIBER improves the timetable for Fayette County to achieve our goal of reliable high-speed internet. We are grateful for the shared vision of these two entities.”

To help support initiatives to provide more Alabamians access to broadband, Alabama Power partnered with business and community organizations in 2018 to create the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition (ARBC). The ARBC is a member-led organization representing more than 50 entities including health care, education, agriculture and economic development groups. For more information on ARBC efforts, visit alruralbroadband.com.

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