A new committee of state lawmakers plans to combat poverty in Alabama with faster internet speeds and other infrastructure improvements, according to one lawmaker.
Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, who is speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, announced the committee’s direction and chairman in a news release this week. Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview, will chair the House Standing Committee on Urban and Rural Development, created after a unanimous vote in the House during the last legislative session.
Shedd, in a phone interview Thursday, said broadband access to the internet is crucial for education and for running businesses.
“Broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity for development,” Shedd said.
He later added that the committee will work to “find strategies to get broadband into areas that do not have it.”
Shedd said he believes the committee will be meeting “as needed” sometime after the next legislative session begins in January. In the meantime, Shedd said the committee members will attend “listening sessions” with officials and residents in their districts to discuss how they can begin addressing poverty.
Committee member Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, said broadband access needs to become statewide, as it is difficult to “enhance yourself in the 21st century” without broadband access.
He added that an increased level of broadband will help bring industry into the state.
Shedd said the committee intends to form a plan to bring in private companies to create broadband access for areas that need it.
“We want private enterprises to work everywhere they can,” Shedd said, also acknowledging that “there’s areas where private enterprises can’t reach.”
Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden, was named vice chairman of the committee.
“The main thing is to get the service to the communities and the businesses that need it, but it has to make sense for the carriers,” Standridge said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Besides broadband access, Standridge said the committee will address infrastructure, education, healthcare, economic development, job creation, and job training.
“This is a long-term thing,” Standridge said, adding, “Everything we can do is going to help.”
The poverty rate in Alabama in 2015 was 18.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; the nationwide poverty rate was 13.5 percent in that year.
“Rural Alabama needs help in the mightiest way,” Jackson said, later adding that the committee will aim to “enhance the quality of life in these areas.”
Committee member Rep.
Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, said the panel plans to examine the causes of poverty in certain areas in Alabama.
“The purpose is to determine where these pockets of poverty are, and understand why they are in poverty levels,” Wingo said by telephone on Tuesday.
Shedd said the fact that the panel is a standing committee “shows a long-term, permanent focus on the need to address development in impoverished areas of our state.”
Shedd said working to decrease poverty may also help to alleviate some of the state’s other problems, such overcrowded prisons.
“We can’t afford poverty anymore in Alabama,” Shedd said, later adding, “We want to find prevention instead of addressing that after the fact.”
Larry Lee, a longtime activist on poverty and education issues, said he believes the committee can have an impact, but that combatting poverty takes time.
“It may take a generation to move the needle to any real degree,” Lee said.
Lee said the committee’s use of the term in its announcement “pockets of poverty” to describe Alabama’s poverty is a questionable choice of words.
“We don’t have pockets of poverty, we have bathtubs of poverty,” Lee said.
Shedd said he expects the “biggest dollars” for the committee’s efforts will come from federal funding, saying that President Donald Trump made broadband and infrastructure a “big part” of his campaign.
H? N?I — The Vi?t Nam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) has the largest number of broadband subscribers in Vi?t Nam, said Nguy?n Tr??ng Giang, VNPT’s deputy general director. Giang said the growth rate of its new broadband subscribers has always been in two digits.
VNPT has accounted for 47 per cent of the market share in the fixed broadband internet category. Viettel took the second place with 26 per cent, followed by FPT with 19 per cent, while the remaining subscribers chose CMC, NetNam or SCTV. Speaking at the launch of new internet solutions earlier this week, he said recently, the undersea fibre optic cable experienced incidents, thus affecting Vi?t Nam’s internet services to foreign countries.
VNPT has invested more on fibre optic cable and expanding connections from Vi?t Nam to Asian, European and African regions to improve its quality of internet services. The network is expected to be completed next month and become operational in November. “Since the technology circle needs to be expanded to better serve consumers, VNPT has promoted investment in this field.
If we have better products and services, we can serve our customers better,” he added. The deputy general director also said that VNPT was expected to continue expanding its leading position with others in term of market share in the fibre optic cable services in the future. The strong broadband infrastructure is expected to support transmission of its 4G network.
Currently, the number of users whose smartphones support 4G is lower than 50 per cent. VNPT will invest in 4G network, which would be enough to meet customers’ demand. In the beginning of April, VNPT increased its fibre optic cable speed from 25 to 50 per cent while maintaining tariffs.
It added that it has no plan to decrease tariff in the future, as the average revenue per user (ARPU) index on a fibre optic subscriber was still low at VND200,000 per month. It will focus on security issues as an indirect price reduction facility for users. The VNPT’s new internet solutions provide diversified packages with high, unlimited and stable speed.
The packages have access speed of 16 Mbps, 20 Mbps, 30 Mbps, 40 Mbps and 60 Mbps.
The packages also provide security software F-Secure SAFE for up to five devices at the same time, according to users’ demand for 12 months. — VNS
Bedford County’s broadband authority, after a discussion, voted by a 3-3 margin not to do a county wide broadband infrastructure assessment.
District 3 Supervisor Steve Wilkerson, District 7 Supervisor Kevin Willis and District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson voted in favor of the study while District 4 Supervisor John Sharp, District 5 Supervisor Tommy Scott and Board Chairman Curry Martin voted against it. District 6 Supervisor Andy Dooley was absent.
Bedford County’s supervisors serve as the county’s broadband authority.
“We want to make sure the investment we make makes sense,” said Deputy County Administrator Dr. Reid Wodicka when he introduced the assessment proposal.
The supervisors, however, felt another study was not needed.
“We already did three studies,” commented Martin.
Sharp said he would rather spend the money putting infrastructure in place.
“A lot of people made a lot of money doing studies in Bedford County,” he said.
“If we are not going to do a long range plan, what are we going to do?” Wilkerson asked after the vote. “If we’re going to do it willy-nilly, let’s do Huddleston first.”
Martin suggested an experimental approach — “putting something up and seeing how it goes.”
“Isn’t that called Montvale?” Wilkerson replied.
Wilkerson was referring to the broadband tower the county erected in Montavle, which turned out to be too short to provide adequate coverage.
William Newbold, president of SM Wireless and a Moneta resident, offered to provide advice on a voluntary basis.
Newbold said there is a lot of information available at no cost that the county could avail itself of, rather than commissioning another study. Newbold said he will talk with Dr. Wodicka and will evaluate sites identified on prior studies. He will look for sites that will be good for LTE sites. LTE, according to Newbold, stands for Long Term Evolution. LTE is an international wireless standard for a path to development.
Meeting as the board of supervisors, the supervisors approved several items by a 5-0 margin. One is a 195-foot monopole cell tower off U. S.
460 near Grandview Trailer Sales. Shentel needs the tower because it must vacate its current spot on an AEP transmission line tower.
The monopole will provide three additional slots for colocation of other companies equipment. Apex Towers, the tower’s owner, will also provide a free slot to the county.
Sampson-Bladen Oil Company will be able to build a distribution facility for petroleum-based lubricants at an industrial park in Montvale, owned by the county’s economic development authority (EDA). The facility will employ 12 people. Its storage tanks will be inside the warehouse, which will not have floor drains. There will be a containment dike around the tanks. According to Wilkerson, the EDA worked to bring this business to Bedford.
The third item, which passed 4-1 was a series of modifications to the zoning ordinance. One makes cell towers between the height of 80 feet and 120 feet a use by right in rural areas unless there is no vegetative screening. In that case, a special use permit will be required.
Another modification makes recycling centers a use by right in Agricultural Village (AV) zones. A third modification allows multi-family housing in a planned commercial development, but limits such housing to no more than 10 percent of the parcel.
Martin cast the lone dissenting vote. He said the use by right cell tower height needs to be 199 feet.
The others agreed with him, but Gregg Zody, the director of community development, said they would need to advertise another pubic hearing.
The consensus of the board was for Zody to look at increasing the cell tower height to 199 feet.