High-Speed Internet Service Will Enable Rural Alabama Infrastructure Development

State Sen. Clay Scofield and Rep. Donnie Chesteen are the Legislature’s leading advocates of pending legislation that will encourage development of high-speed Internet service to rural Alabama.

Without effective high-speed Internet, or broadband service, rural Alabama’s infrastructure will be unable to attract jobs, they said.

Sen. Scofield, R-Guntersville, and Rep. Chesteen, R-Geneva, spoke at today’s Business Council of Alabama’s Tuesday Briefing about high-speed Internet service. Sen. Scofield is chairman of the Senate Confirmations Committee and Rep. Chesteen is chairman of the House Technology & Research Committee.

Today’s Tuesday Briefing, the final scheduled briefing of the 2018 regular legislative session, was sponsored by the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure (AAI).

Sen. Scofield and Rep. Chesteen were introduced by AAI board member Morgan O. “Major” Ogilvie Jr. of BCA member Ready Mix USA LLC in Birmingham.

“We’re very proud of the progress we’re making bringing the issue of infrastructure to Alabama,” Ogilvie said. “We want to accomplish something great for Alabama by improving the quality of life for all Alabamians.”

Infrastructure improvement is not just about roads and bridges, but it includes providing adequate Internet service to non-urban areas.

“We all know the importance of broadband. There are a lot of areas of the state without it.” Sen. Clay Scofield

The Senate has passed a broadband bill, SB 149 by Sen. Scofield, a tax credit bill which was referred to the House Ways and Means Education Committee.

Rep. Chesteen and Sen. Scofield are working to compromise on a measure that would create a $10 million grant program that would be administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

“Without high-speed internet you’re not going to be able to recruit jobs.” Rep. Donnie Chesteen

Scofield said rural broadband development needs tax help because the return on investment just isn’t there in sparsely populated regions that require costly infrastructure.

Rep. Chesteen said he hopes the House committee favorably reports the bill this week and sends it to the full House for consideration next week. “If we are going to be forward looking in technology, we can’t wait,” Rep. Chesteen said.

“High speed Internet is the infrastructure challenge of our day,” Sen. Scofield said.