Broadband bill headed to ballots

A group of community members and leaders have been working for over a year now to establish a reliable source for broadband services in Franklin County.

Thanks to a bill recently passed in the Alabama legislature, that process has moved one step closer to becoming a reality, according to Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow.

Morrow said the passage of HB 600 will make it possible for an existing authority to apply for grants and enter into contracts related to the county’s broadband initiative.

“This was Phase I of our broadband project that we’ve been working on for many months now,” Morrow said.

“Affordable, high speed internet should be available to all Franklin County residents in order for our citizens to have access to outlets for securing jobs and for our students to be able to have the tools to excel in their studies.

“Widespread broadband service is also crucial for our businesses and industries, and this initiative is something both Roger Bedford and myself are committed to seeing through to completion.”

Morrow said the Franklin County Water Authority was chosen to be the entity that would represent the county’s broadband interests.

“We needed an existing authority to be able to take on this responsibility of applying for grants and securing funds for our broadband initiative, and this was our best option,” he said.

Morrow said now that this bill has been passed, the decision to move forward with the project will now be placed in the hands of Franklin County’s voters.

He said the issue will be placed on Franklin County ballots in June as to whether or not the Franklin County Water Authority should be approved to serve as the authority for the broadband initiative.

The amendment placed on the ballot will read:

“Relating to Franklin County, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to allow the Franklin County Water Coordinating and Fire Authority to provide sewer services and broadband Internet services in the county.”

Morrow said this will allow the authority to find funding for broadband services.

“This is an important step in this process, and it will be up to our county voters to help us move forward with this project,” he said.

Morrow also commended Katernia Cole, who serves as the chairperson of the county’s broadband task force.

“Katernia has put in countless hours working to establish an affordable broadband service in our area, and I appreciate her efforts as well as the efforts of the rest of the members of the broadband task force.”

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