MONTGOMERY - The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs established a new division dedicated to expanding access to high-speed internet throughout the state.

ADECA's Digital Expansion Division was created through the Connect Alabama Act of 2021. The legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Del Marsh and State Rep. Danny Garrett and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey, created the new division within ADECA and created the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority to oversee broadband expansion in the state. The authority is chaired by State Sen. Clay Scofield and co-chaired by State Rep. Randall Shedd.

ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell appointed longtime ADECA manager Maureen Neighbors as chief of the new Digital Expansion Division. Neighbors previously served as chief of ADECA's Energy Division since January 2017. The Energy Division was responsible for statewide broadband programs, including the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund that Gov. Ivey signed into law in 2018 and the Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students program, which provided internet vouchers for Alabama families when many schools switched to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Ivey has long supported the expansion of broadband across the state and commended these latest steps.

"ADECA has been doing a great job with broadband expansion, and this new division working with the Digital Expansion Authority will continue to expand this vital infrastructure in Alabama," Gov. Ivey said. "Together, we are working to close the gaps in high-speed internet access in Alabama, which will help bring more jobs and bolster our economy."

Since 2018, ADECA has awarded grants for more than 90 projects to expand broadband access to unserved areas through the Alabama Broadband Connectivity Fund. Administration of the fund will now move to the new division.

"As the chief of our Energy Division, Maureen has done a phenomenal job leading an array of programs, including the Broadband Accessibility Fund," Boswell said. "I know that she will continue to do great things for the state of Alabama in her new role leading ADECA's Digital Expansion Division."

Prior to chairing the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority, Scofield had previously sponsored legislation to strengthen the Broadband Accessibility Fund.

"We are making considerable progress to expand broadband across the state, especially today with the creation of the Digital Expansion Division. The future of Alabama relies on high-speed internet access reaching all four corners of the state. Our success depends on this essential infrastructure, so it is critically important that we get this right," Scofield said. "This division at ADECA will not only bring about robust changes and improvements to several significant ongoing efforts, but it will also establish effective initiatives to ensure we are on a strong path moving forward. I appreciate the dedication and commitment of those at ADECA and the Digital Expansion Authority to provide Alabamians with these services."

"I thank Governor Ivey and her team at ADECA for their leadership to close the digital divide in Alabama," Shedd said. "The appointment of Maureen Neighbors is good news in that we will not only have continuity of the effort, but we can swiftly increase the pace of broadband expansion."

Along with broadband expansion, ADECA administers a wide range of programs that support law enforcement, victim services, economic development, energy conservation, water resource management and recreation.

For more information about the new division and its programs, go to www.adeca.alabama.gov/broadband.

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