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AARP: Next steps to bridging Alabama’s digital divide

Alabama has a historic opportunity to expand access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to everyone in our state, regardless of where they live or their situation.

But access doesn’t just depend on infrastructure like wires and poles. It’s also important that internet service is affordable and that all Alabamians have the tools and skills to use the internet.

Alabama is Digital Opportunity Planning It was approved by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Federal funding This will help connect underserved communities, including Alabama's seniors, veterans, low-income families, tribal communities and those living in rural areas, to the internet.

The plan has been developed in close collaboration with stakeholders, partner organisations and public participation. Through its work, the Department of Economy and Community found that while Alabama has made great strides in recent years to close the digital divide, it still faces many challenges, especially in rural areas: Access to physical broadband infrastructure, affordability of broadband service and a lack of digital skills were found to be significant barriers to broadband adoption.

RELATED: State Senator Kelly: The need for high-speed internet is urgent

Given that the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is set to expire in May of this year, Alabama should take advantage. Broadband, Equity, Affordability and Deployment (BEAD) Program funds to help more residents get high-speed internet service.

On behalf of our more than 400,000 members, AARP Alabama applauds the approval of the state’s plan to expand high-speed internet access and adoption across the state. High-speed internet is not a luxury — it's a necessity for all Alabamians. Improved connectivity helps with workforce development and employment, education, job training, small business success, and economic growth.

Alabama seniors and their families can access virtual care, find local resources, age in safety and in familiar places, and connect with family and friends — meaning high-speed internet improves the quality of life for all of us.

Putting together this comprehensive plan is a laudable start, but much work remains to be done. AARP Alabama looks forward to working with the Department of Economic and Community Affairs and other key stakeholders to make this plan a success.

Candy Williams is AARP Alabama director.

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