Program lets military families talk via computer

Published 12:14 am Monday, January 12, 2009

By By Lydia Grimes – features reporter
Military personnel deployed overseas and their families will now be able to visit each other via a new system put into place in several public libraries.
Brook Walker, director of the Brewton Public Library requested and received one of the computers and webcam, which were put into place a couple of days ago.
Riley has been instrumental in getting this service set up so that the military and their families can visually visit each other, Walker said.
The new program, called Connecting Families, puts the video webcams and computers in more than 100 libraries throughout the state. Alabamians will be able to make appointments with the libraries when they can come in and use the technology to see and talk to their deployed family members.
Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Alabama Public Library Service, said Alabama is the only state in the nation with this program.
Connecting Families is a partnership between the public library service and the Alabama Broadband Initiative that Governor Riley launched earlier this year. The program got its start thanks to grant funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The program's real impetus came from Chief Warrant Officer Randy Hickman, who was unable to communicate via webcam with his family in Elmore County while he was serving in Iraq.
The problem wasn't due to a lack of broadband access at his base in Iraq, but rather because his home 20 miles outside Montgomery didn't have high-speed Internet access.
Hickman contacted Riley's office, which got the Broadband Initiative involved.
The governor and Mitchell announced Connecting Families at the Wetumpka Public Library, with Hickman and his family in attendance.
This project is being done in conjunction with the Alabama Broadband Initiative to ensure that all areas of Alabama will have broadband service.