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Fiber-optic internet spreads in Franklin

Tombigbee Communications held a kickoff event at the A.W. Todd Centre in Russellville Friday to announce its fiber-optic internet service called freedom FIBER.

The need for access to high-speed, fiber-optic internet extends to rural areas, and Tombigbee Communications continues to expand into more regions to offer this critical service.

“I appreciate them for what they’ve done,” said Franklin County Probate Judge Barry Moore. “This will open the door for Franklin County for investor recruitment and for supplying internet to homes to help children with schoolwork and so much more.”

During the Franklin County Commission’s work session Jan. 10, Randy Schultz and Scott Mugno, members of the board of directors for the Franklin County Water Service Authority – the state statutory authority charged with bringing broadband to Franklin County – spoke to the commission and shared copies of maps showing the portions of the county already being supplied and those still needing coverage.

“Study after study shows rural counties that don’t develop and grow economically will die,” Mugno said in explaining the significance of reliable and affordable last-mile fiber optic broadband for rural Alabama. “Today we’re here to see the first mountains moved.”

After building in Marion, Lamar, Winston and Fayette counties in, Tombigbee Communications is expanding into Franklin County thanks to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund grant opportunities.

“High-speed internet in Franklin County will provide opportunities for better education, more jobs, access to telemedicine, connection across long distances and many other quality-of-life improvements,” said Steve Foshee, CEO/president of Tombigbee Communications.

“Our main goal is to provide the same opportunities to our rural neighbors and friends as our big city neighbors.”

At the event, two Franklin freedom FIBER customers, a business and a family, shared their experiences using fiber internet to improve their lives.

“You can’t put a value on a child’s education,” explained Marty Graham in sharing the significance for his family. “This is opening doors for rural Franklin County and our household, as well for my business by being able to more effectively market my cattle. It’s going to make a huge positive impact on both fronts.”

Ralton Baker spoke about his business being the first in Franklin County to connect to the service.

“It’s going real good,” explained Baker. “We’ve had it a little over a week, and it’s fast. What we had before was really slow. We’ve struggled over the years, and we’re just excited about what this means for the future.”

Local politicians, including Congressman Robert Aderholt and Rep. Jamie Kiel, shared their thoughts about this promising development in Franklin County.

“It’s been a long time in coming. The groundwork’s been laid, and we’re excited about that,” Aderholt said. “This is not a partisan issue. This is one of those issues that pulls everybody together.”

He added his goal is to make the Fourth District the most connected rural district in America.

“Since I created the ReConnect Program in 2018, thousands of people in the Fourth District have been connected to high-speed Internet.”

Kiel explained it’s taken a long time to get to this point, but the payoff will be worth the wait.

“We’ve been working on broadband internet for Franklin County for a long time, and it’s great to finally see some fruit from our efforts,” Kiel said. “I’m very thankful for freedom FIBER taking the lead on this initiative. Working with Franklin Electric and Alabama Power, they have committed to servicing all of Franklin County.”

Grant money, officials explained, has made a tremendous impact.

“A state grant of $3.875 million has allowed us to start the process of making this a reality,” added Kiel. “Today’s announcement marks the start to making sure that all residents of Franklin County have high-speed Internet.”

The service is currently available throughout the eastern part of the county and part of the southern part. The build-out into Franklin County will continue.

Visit the website for freedom FIBER at www.freedomfiber.com/ for more information.

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