The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate Pro Tem, Del Marsh, said Tuesday he would like to apportion some of the state’s coronavirus relief funds to establish broadband through the state.
According to Governing.com, Alabama is currently receiving $1.7 billion in coronavirus relief funding. Marsh wants to use $800 million of those funds toward broadband infrastructure. “I think this is something all people of the state would benefit from,” said Marsh.
A report by Broadband Now ranks Alabama at 38 out of 50 states for broadband coverage and speed, accounting for less than 30 percent of the states’ population with access to broadband. While the numbers indicate a clear need for infrastructure, applying coronavirus funds toward such an initiative has raised concern among other leaders.
Spokeswoman Gina Maiola of Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said, “While the governor agrees broadband is essential for education, she [Gov. Ivey] will also seek guidance if this is something we can allocate money towards.”
Citing an estimated $2.9 billion in economic activity to the state, Democrats suggested funds be used to expand Medicaid. Marsh disagreed that Medicaid expansion would happen, stating broadband expansion would “help all citizens of the state,” reported Governing.com.
“Had this been in place, you could have had virtual education going on, teachers could have stayed in touch with their students – they are off the grid right now in many areas,” Marsh said. If approved for funding allocation, Marsh suggested broadband would be expanding throughout the state by 2022.
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