2019 Code of Alabama
Title 41 - State Government.
Chapter 23 - Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
Article 13 - Alabama Broadband Accessability Act.
Section 41-23-213 - Grant program; rulemaking authority; Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund.

Universal Citation: AL Code § 41-23-213 (2019)
Section 41-23-213Grant program; rulemaking authority; Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund.

(a) The Director of ADECA may establish and administer the broadband accessibility grant program for the purpose of promoting the deployment and adoption of broadband Internet access services to unserved areas. By June 26, 2018, the director shall adopt rules and policies to administer the program and begin to accept applications for grants, and shall adopt such rules as may be necessary to meet the future needs of the grant program.

(b) The program shall be administered pursuant to policies developed by ADECA in compliance with this article. The policies shall provide for the awarding of grants to non-governmental entities that are cooperatives, corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, or other private business entities that provide broadband services. Nothing in this article shall expand the authority under state law of any entity to provide broadband service.

(c) There is hereby created the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund in the State Treasury. The fund is subject to appropriations by the Legislature and gifts, grants, and other donations received by ADECA for the broadband accessibility grant program or fund. ADECA may not spend appropriations for the program for purposes other than those listed in this section. Any monies appropriated to ADECA for broadband grants that are unspent at the end of a fiscal year shall be carried over for use by the program in the next fiscal year. ADECA shall develop rules ensuring that expenses incurred to administer the program must not exceed three percent of the total amount appropriated for the program in any fiscal year. Moneys in the fund shall be invested by the State Treasurer for the sole benefit of the fund.

(d)(1) Individual grants awarded by ADECA under this section may only be awarded for projects in unserved areas, and may not exceed the lesser of:

a. Twenty percent of the project costs.

b. Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars ($750,000) for projects that will result in transmitting broadband signals at speeds of at least 10 megabits per second of download speed and one megabit per second of upload speed.

c. One million four hundred thousand dollars ($1,400,000) for projects that will result in transmitting broadband signals at speeds of at least 25 megabits per second of download speed and three megabits per second of upload speed.

(2) Grants may be given to any qualified entity pursuant to subsection (b) that meets the service criteria for expenditures after March 28, 2018.

(3) ADECA shall ensure that not less than 40 percent of funds appropriated for grants be utilized in unincorporated areas of the state.

(4) Subject to the limitations in this subsection, grants shall be awarded pursuant to the service criteria developed by ADECA, with priority given to projects that meet any of the following:

a. Seek to leverage grant funds through private investment and extension of existing infrastructure.

b. Serve locations with demonstrated community support, including, but not limited to, documented support from local government.

c. Demonstrate the operator’s technical and managerial capabilities to complete the project within two years of the grant.

d. Demonstrate the applicants' necessary financial resources.

e. Are most cost effective and technically efficient in that they propose to serve the highest number of unserved homes, businesses and community anchor points for the least cost and best level of service, emphasizing projects including the highest broadband speeds.

f. Provide material broadband enhancement to hospitals located in rural areas as defined in Section 22-21-20.

g. Support local libraries in this state for the purpose of assisting the libraries in offering digital literacy training pursuant to state library and archive guidelines.

(e) The first annual commencement date to submit grant applications shall be by May 27, 2018, and shall be March 1 in each subsequent year. ADECA shall accept applications within a 150-day grant window after the annual commencement date. Applications for eligible projects will be evaluated according to a scoring system developed by ADECA that incorporates the priorities listed in this section, with grant awards published within 90 days after expiration of the filing window. Grant applications shall be published by ADECA on the Internet at the end of the filing window, and existing service providers shall have 30 days from the date of publication to file objections to the eligibility of a proposed project. ADECA shall address any objections within 30 days of submission and shall make any appropriate changes to grant awards based on a finding of ineligibility resulting from such protest. Subject to such protest procedure, grants issued by ADECA shall be conditioned upon compliance with the terms of the grant but shall not otherwise be revocable. Providers' grants shall be paid within 30 days upon ADECA receiving written certification of the completion of the project and evidence of compliance with the terms of the grant as prescribed by ADECA.

(f) Grants shall be conditioned on project completion within two years of awarding of the grant.

(g) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, eligible projects shall include projects that have received funds through other federal universal service funding programs designed specifically to encourage broadband deployment in an area without broadband access in an amount not exceeding 50 percent of the total project cost; provided, however, that any award of state funds may only be utilized to either (i) fund project components that extend beyond the specifications supported by the federal funding, the eligible components being an extension of service to unserved rural areas not otherwise served by the federally supported project, or (ii) ensure that areas being served by the federal funding at speeds less than 25 megabits per second of download speed and three megabits per second of upload speed will, in fact, receive faster speeds of not less than 25 megabits per second of download speed and three megabits per second of upload speed. Grants issued under this subsection shall not exceed 40 percent of total grant funding, with such grants not exceeding 20 percent of total project costs.

(Act 2018-395, §4.)
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