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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — During the last legislative session, access to rural broadband across Alabama was a top priority for lawmakers. 

But what’s next in the process? 

Local and state leaders say that in order for Alabama’s economic and educational opportunities to grow, access to high-speed internet is a must. Republican State Senator Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, was recently named chair of the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority.

“We can connect as many people and businesses who currently have nothing,” Scofield said.

The authority was created as part of the recently passed Connect Alabama Act.

“We are in the process of developing a statewide map, an address level map. We expect that by at least the end of the year,” Scofield said.

That map will show exactly where broadband access is limited or non-existent in the state.

The mapping process and broadband expansion are good news for Elmore County Commission Chairman Troy Stubbs.

“We know that broadband is needed through the county, especially in our underserved areas,” Stubbs said.

Stubbs said the COVID-19 pandemic proved how much residents, even in a rural county like Elmore County, need high-speed internet access.

“It affects every part of life. We saw it with education and distance education. We saw it with telemedicine, we see it with economic development,” Stubbs said.

To get more industry in the state, both Stubbs and Scofield say Alabama has to make the technological leap. And with the arrival of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money, Alabama could be ahead of the curve. 

“I think within the next few years, the people of Alabama are going to see significant improvements throughout the state in terms of connectivity,” Scofield said.