Many take for granted the ability to get online through a handheld device or computer. For some, internet access at home is currently impossible leading to students falling behind at school and parents unable to search and apply for better job opportunities. 

Thanks to grants from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), unserved and under-served areas of the state will start to see improvements in broadband internet access. Tallapoosa County recently received one such grant in the amount of $19,475.05. 

“This is the first of the Tallapoosa County broadband grants,” state Rep. Ed Oliver (R - Dadeville) said. “More will follow.”

Oliver said some parts of District 81 are without any access to internet and officials have been working on ways to rectify the issue.

“We are making some progress,” Oliver said. “The small electric cooperatives have been applying and doing a great job.”

The grants are intended to help utility companies install technology to bring internet to unserved and under-served areas, a program started last year.

“We are in the early stages of implementing 2019 legislation that gives utility companies the ability to use existing right of ways for broadband,” Oliver said. 

Oliver said utility companies would install equipment on existing poles, which will allow internet access.

The first grant is to be used by Windstream Alabama. Oliver said Charter Communications director of government affairs Taylor Vice helps identify areas to expand broadband access.

“He coordinates with the companies as to where to go,” Oliver said.

Oliver said it will be a slow process as the program has to take into consideration where existing internet providers are located.

“We are still trying to come up with all the under- and unserved areas,” Oliver said. “It’s a huge undertaking. It’s not something that can be done quickly.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.