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March 17, 2011

Broadband project to create jobs

Source: http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20110317/NEWS02/103170312/Broadband-project-create-jobs?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFrontpage%7Cs

A new broadband project is expected to bring not only high-speed Internet access to Alabama's Black Belt region, but also more than 1,200 jobs.

The more than 100 Alabama contractors who met at Alabama State University on Wednesday to find out how to become part of that project learned they might not get rich doing it, but they could enrich one of the state's most economically distressed areas and change the lives of those who live in it.

Alabama contractors with experience building communications infrastructure would accomplish this by putting broadband access in reach of thousands of homes and businesses in that region by 2013.

Thanks to millions in federal grant money, the first phase of a project that would install more than 2,200 miles of fiber-optic lines to provide broadband access in Butler, Crenshaw, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox counties is set to begin in April.

The South Central Alabama Broadband Commission, a consortium of government and nonprofit organizations, with the help of the Bessemer-based Trillion Communications Corp. secured the money to build out a network that would provide community-funded Internet services. The project also will build out wireless capabilities to support access for public safety and government agencies.

The first phase of the project will extend from Montgomery to Selma, along U.S. 80. Ultimately, the network would extend to Escambia County. But Antwon Alsobrook, president and CEO of Atlanta-based A2D Inc., said the network could expand west to Mississippi and east to Georgia. A2D Inc. is a network systems integration firm that specializes in broadband-based infrastructure development. The company is facilitating the rollout of the project.

Alsobrook said while there is plenty of labor intensive work for contractors to do in getting the network up and running, there is still plenty of work for advocates of broadband to do in their communities. He said community partners would be needed to help those who don't know how to use a computer, don't own a computer or don't see the need for a computer to overcome those barriers.