Chilton County wireless accessibility expanding

Published 11:49 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/Senior Staff Writer

High speed internet is now available for more rural areas in Chilton and Autauga counties

AT&T announced on Aug. 15 that three towers have been installed in the area as a part of its fixed wireless internet system.

A ribbon cutting for the announcement was held at a new tower near the Chilton/ Autauga County border. One tower will provide service to parts of Maplesville and the surrounding unincorporated county. Another will provide service to southwest Chilton County and Stanton. The tower in Autauga County will serve Billingsley.

Maplesville Mayor W.C. Hayes said the increased access to internet could help Maplesville students as the school system continues to integrate technology.

“We appreciate everything that AT&T does,” Hayes said.

“This is going to help our rural area for the children that do attend Chilton County Schools to have access that don’t have access now,” Chilton County Commissioner Jimmie Hardee said.

He also commented that the price seemed “pretty economical.”

Tyler Fondren of AT&T said each tower receives its signal through fiber optic cable, providing download speeds of at least 10 mbps for locations within about a five-mile radius. The combined reach of the towers is estimated to service 700 homes and small businesses.

“Over the three previous years, AT&T has invested $1.1 billion in its Alabama network … Recently, AT&T accepted $427 million per year from the Connect America Fund Phase 2,” Fondren of AT&T said.

The FCC Connect America Fund monies are offered to companies to bring internet to rural areas that do not have adequate service.

“The FCC determines the census blocks where this is needed,” Fondren said.

This is the first year of a three-year expansion by AT&T using the funds.

“By that time we hope to reach 66,000 homes and small businesses in Alabama, ” Fondren said.

Alabama Senator Clyde Chambliss said increased accessibility to internet in the state was important for students to have continuity between school and home.

“We have been working diligently to get broadband throughout, especially to the schools and then to the home,” Alabama Rep. Jimmy Martin said. “This is the future.”

Fondren described fixed wireless internet as “an innovative new technology where we can get service in rural areas more quickly.”

“We put dedicated antennas on a special bandwidth, a special spectrum. It is not a part of the regular cellphone spectrum,” Fondren said.

A rectangular receiver box antenna is mounted to the outside of each building to receive the service.

Those interested in whether their home is included in the expanded service area can visit wireless for more information.