County included in ADECA internet study grant

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Escambia County has been named in an Internet Conectivty study grant with an announcement coming last week from state officials.
Centerfire Economic CEO Jess Nicholas made the announcment in Atmore last week and a similar announcement was made in Brewton during the same week.
Brewton City Clerk Brooke Hartin said a public meeting will allow additional details to be released about the grant and the study.
:Representatives from the Alabama Department of Economic and Comunity Affairs will be here to provide technical assistance regarding new fuding for broadband efforts for Escambia County,” Hartin said. “ADECA is asking for collaboration from local jurisdictions so they can provide a county-specific profile to help us tap into the funding that will flow down from the state over the next few years.”
According to Nicholas, the grant will not cost anyone in the county anything for the study to begin. The grant was received for the state through the Economic Development Authrity and will be administered through the Alabama Department of Economics and Community Affairs (ADECA).
“Escambia – along with the other nine counties – are beneficiaries of the grant,” Nicholas said. “So no money will flow directly to the county through this — federal funds will go to ADECA, which will use those funds to pay for the study, but the county will receive the results of the study as if it had hired a consultant on its own.”
A special presentation and informational meeting will be held in Brewton concerning the study grant. The meeting is set for Jan. 26 at Brewton City Hall on Douglas Avenue. Elected officials will meet at 9 a.m. with the general public meeting set to begin at 1 p.m.
“ADECA, the agency they’ve contracted with on the grant, are going to be there to take community feedback,” Nicholas said.
Nicholas said the 1 p.m. meeting is for business leaders, community members and those who are pushing for better Internet access for the kids. He added that organizations send one person who can represent the group as seats will fill up fast.
“The reason for the survey is that existing service maps, particularly the ones that have been available for years through the United States Department of Agriculture and other entities, are woefully out of date,” Nicholas said. “Most private companies have asked us in the past, as we’ve tried to recruit them, if we had already done a feasibility study and/or mapping study of the county, the cities and identified who had Internet, who didn’t and who had substandard internet. Those surveys are not cheap.”
Nicholas said the grant will pay for the survey.
“Because we were one of the 10 counties selected for this program, the study will be grant-funded rather than us having to do it ourselves,” he said. “The cost of those studies can vary; they’re usually in the mid- to upper five figures, sometimes even six figures. I’m not sure how much money ADECA received through EDA for this, but we’re\ very grateful they picked us regardless.”

Andrew Garner, edtior of The Atmore Advance, contributed to this story.