UWA receives $1.65M NTIA broadband grant

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 7:07 PM CST
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LIVINGSTON, Ala. (WTOK) - Seven HBCUs and minority-serving institutions in Alabama are receiving broadband funding as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to expand Americans’ access to affordable high-speed internet service.

The University of West Alabama received a $1,649,440 federal grant over two years from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). That money will fund internet-related additions both on and off campus--providing broadband technology, digital equipment, computers, and wifi hotspots.

UWA’s Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development, Tina Jones said this grant will allow the university to help communities within a 15-mile census block radius where access to broadband is lacking.

“Many of our communities do not have the ability to kind of go to that virtual conference meeting type programs to reach their constituents. So this would allow them to have that space right there in their own communities rather than having to seek space or cancel those types of meetings. So one it’s helping build the capacities of those communities so to me that makes a huge difference. Then two we’re also able to put in a ‘skills on wheels’ unit basically is what I like to call it. But really what we’re talking about there is we’re able to build and bring digital literacy-type programs again into their community. They’re not having to come to our campus, they’re not having to work around their schedule, we’re able to work around the community’s schedule,” said Jones

UWA said it will install the equipment in eight cities, towns, and unincorporated communities in Sumter County including Livingston, Epes, Emelle, York, Cuba, Gainesville, Geiger, and Panola -- and Boligee in Greene County.

“We’re going to be able to work with a consulting firm to actually create a digital broadband expansion plan for these counties so when they are working with service providers like Mediacom or C Spire etc. They’re going to be able to specifically say here are the needs of our community and so we’re going to be doing surveying that’s going out in those communities to see what exactly what’s happening in their homes. What they have access to and what they don’t have access to. That’s going to put our leadership in a lot better position to say hey this is what we need and this is what our counties currently have and here’s how we need to get that to get where we want to be,” said Jones

UWA said it is working with local authorities to determine the best locations in city halls, public libraries, and community centers to install broadband equipment.