Internet expansion coming to Chilton County with CAEC grants

Published 12:54 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative is expanding its internet coverage across central Alabama by way of grants that will greatly benefit some residents in Chilton County. The CAEC was awarded seven broadband grants through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ (ADECA) Capital Projects Fund allocation totaling $22.9 million that will go directly towards increasing the spread of high-speed internet through fiber projects. The grants will add coverage areas in Autauga, Chilton, Coosa and Elmore counties, but a majority of the work taking place will happen in Chilton County.

“One of our key principles as a cooperative is our commitment to community,” Tom Stackhouse, CAEC President and CEO, said in a press release. “The need for affordable, reliable, high-speed internet doesn’t just stop at the end of CAEC’s service territory— it’s a need many of our neighbor’s face daily. These grants will allow us to extend our ability to service customers in need outside of our electric coverage area.”

The expansion will cover areas that are outside of the cooperative’s current service footprint and into areas where Alabama Power customers are. It is expected that 6,400 homes and businesses will gain high-speed internet service after expansion is complete, and a two-year expansion timeline is expected with the projects.

The expansion is also bringing the best connectivity for residents as well with fiber to the premises connection, which means residents will have fiber connectivity all the way into their businesses or homes.

“In Chilton County, we are serving the areas of our electric service territory, so wherever we have electric service territory, they currently have access to broadband,” Julie Young, Vice President of Business and Administrative Services at CAEC, said. “Beyond that, these new grant areas are taking us outside of our electric service territory and into Alabama Power service territory.”

CAEC internet coverage currently covers areas in Chilton County that are outside of city limits in more rural areas. The expansion will bring internet coverage to certain residents inside city limits across the county in Clanton, Jemison, Maplesville and Thorsby, and there are spots down U.S. Highway 31 in Verbena where expansion is happening as well. Jimmy Gray, Vice President of Engineering and Operations with CAEC, said that downtown portions of the expansions will take a bit more time with overhead lines being part of the upgrade. Gray expects work to begin around the county in the near future.

The service area map at shows areas within the city limits of Clanton, Jemison, Maplesville and Thorsby as areas where service is expected soon. The map says that Jemison and Thorsby expansion is estimated to start the earliest in the third and fourth quarters of 2024, and some places into the first quarter of 2025. As the map moves down into Clanton, those estimates for service to be available are the first, second and third quarters of 2025. Service expansion in the Verbena area is estimated for the first quarter of 2025, and Maplesville and Plantersville areas will be in the third and fourth quarters of 2025.

Young said the feedback so far has been positive, but the biggest challenge will be managing the timeline of completion that people are expecting. She elaborated that not all of the grant areas will be worked on simultaneously, so some residents will receive service faster than others, and patience will be key to completing the projects entirely.

Updates from CAEC will go out to residents inside the expansion zones as construction moves forward, important dates come up and when service will be available to them. Residents may visit and enter their address to see if it falls within one of the expansion zones.