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franklin county times

$70K grant will improve Internet connectivity

Four Franklin County schools will take an important step toward broadband Internet access with the help of a $70,000 grant announced Tuesday by Gov. Robert Bentley.

The Appalachian Regional Commission grant will enable the county’s school system to install fiber optic cables and other equipment necessary to bring high-speed Internet access to Red Bay High, Vina High, East Franklin Jr. High and Tharptown Elementary schools.

“It is good news. We have some wiring going on right now in four of our schools that have old wiring, replacing the copper wiring with fiber,” Superintendent Gary Williams said. “This will give us the opportunity to be able to use more devices in a classroom and have faster and more bandwidth … This is something we have been planning on doing for about two years now. We’ve been waiting on this type of grant.”

The servers, ports and other equipment will enable multiple devices to access the Internet in each classroom at the schools. The project also will significantly increase the bandwidth available at each school, opening up many potential distance-learning opportunities for students.

The ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties, including 39 in Alabama, across the Appalachian Region. The agency’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs manages the ARC program in Alabama and is administering the grant. ADECA administers an array of programs supporting law enforcement and traffic safety, economic development, energy conservation, water resource management and recreation development.

“Broadband access is a challenge many rural schools face,” ADECA Director Jim Byard Jr. said. “With Gov. Bentley’s Great State 2019 Plan, access to broadband is a top priority. ADECA continually looks for opportunities to help school systems address technology challenges, and I am pleased this ARC grant will help Franklin County move forward with broadband access for four schools in the county.”

Bentley notified Williams that the grant had been approved.

“Access to high-speed internet is becoming a necessity in today’s digital world,” Bentley said. “I am pleased to help the Franklin County school system take an important step toward increasing the learning opportunities available to students.”