Appalachian Valley Fiber Network and JKM Consulting have received grants from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to install fiber optic cables in and around Calhoun County and parts of Talladega National Forest, providing communities in the area with faster Internet connections.
“It’s a neat and great thing,” said Mary Humphries of the Shoal Creek Ranger District in Talladega National Forest. “It’s going to bring broadband to several rural communities.”
The Appalachian Valley Fiber Network, a partnership between private and public entities in Georgia and northeast Alabama, has a $21.2 million grant to install fiber optic cable along Alabama 281 through Talladega National Forest. The underground wires will be installed along existing telephone and power lines to minimize the effect on the forest environment.
Humphries said the project will be under way within the next two months.
In total, the organization proposed installing more than 180 miles of fiber optic cable in northeast Alabama and Georgia, thereby connecting 144,000 households and 8,300 businesses in Cleburne and Clay counties to faster broadband speeds.
Meanwhile, the Oxford-based telecom company JKM Consulting had already started the installation of fiber optic cable in Calhoun County the week before Thanksgiving. Crews now are installing fiber optic cables along Alabama 21 between Anniston and Jacksonville. The project, called Broadband for the East Alabama Region, received $6.2 million in grant money from the recovery act.
The installation is expected to last through August.
Steve Moses, one of the co-owners of JKM Consulting, said his company would install 197 miles of fiber optic cable from Pleasant Valley High School to Jacksonville as well as through Munford, Ashland, Wedowee, Wadley and parts of Talladega and Clay counties.
JKM Consulting wrote the grant with help from the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission. The planning commission’s current role is to help administer the grant, said Donna Fathke, principal planner with the planning commission.
“The point of it is to bring broadband to under-served and non-served communities,” she said.
Fathke said the current project would bring Internet not to individual homes, but to schools, hospitals, fire stations, businesses and other institutions.
Moses said wireless Internet would come later to homes. Moses said the plan is for his company to sell the broadband service wholesale to another company already involved in Internet retail, which in turn will sell wireless Internet to residents.
“But if we don’t get that deal, we will go into the retail side of the business ourselves,” Moses said.
The project is expected to eventually provide Internet service to 52,800 households, including to about 14,000 people in Clay County.
Moses said the project would use several Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program towers to help transmit the signal for wireless Internet service. The CSEPP towers were installed to relay emergency messages as efficiently as possible in case of an emergency at the Anniston Chemical Disposal Facility. With that facility shutting down, grant funding for the emergency system and the towers has ceased.