Hayneville Telephone Company awarded $25 million grant to fund broadband services for Lowndes County residents – Lowndes Signal
Hayneville Telephone Company awarded $25 million grant to fund broadband services for Lowndes County residents
Posted at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 2, 2022
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The United States Department of Agriculture has announced the award of $25 million to Hayneville Telephone Company through rural utilities Reconnect Program October 27.
Hayneville Telephone will use the grant dollars to build 279 miles of fiber cable across approximately 216 square miles, extending broadband services up to 1GB via a Fiber-To-The-Premises network to 4,646 residents in the major part of Lowndes County.
“Fiber to the home is like the Cadillac version of Internet service,” said Evelyn Causey, president of Hayneville Telephone. “We have internet connections that are hardened and fast and as weatherproof as possible. This program was created to serve citizens in rural areas, to enable them to have fiber internet services.
Causey said fiber optic capabilities are limitless and can meet all home and business needs. Users can simultaneously stream videos, download data and images, work from home or go to school remotely, she added.
Michelle Peel’s family was one of the first to acquire digital subscriber line (DSL) internet service through Hayneville Telephone in the 1990s. And Peel, who sometimes worked from home during office closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, said telecommuting was nearly impossible with DSL.
“It’s hard to be in video meetings on our internet,” Peel explained. “We have to wait for the call to buffer and it’s almost impossible to be in two meetings at once. The fiber will allow us to easily work from home when needed. »
The utility will directly invest the grants over a period of 5 years. Construction is expected to begin later in 2023.
After construction, fiber internet plans will start at approximately $59 per month, and eligible households can apply for a rebate of up to $30 per month under the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program .
“We have already completed six ADECA (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs) projects in our area,” Causey said. This is going to be another addition to the things we’ve been doing since [nearly] 80 years of bringing services to rural counties.
Hayneville is a private, family-owned utility that began operating in 1946, when Howard and Jessie Powell purchased the Sutherland family home after a fire destroyed their own home.
The telephone company, consisting of a lounge switchboard and 50 customers, came with the house and still operates in the same structure today.
“So we’ve been around for 76 years,” Causey said. “My grandfather tried to sell the AT&T company in the late 1940s, then offered to give it to them. But AT&T didn’t want to serve rural Alabama, so they kept saying no.
Since then, Causey’s family has run the telephone company. His grandmother’s house still houses the business office and all operations.
“My grandfather, who ran a successful dairy farm, didn’t want to be part of it,” recalls Causey. “But my grandmother loved the house, so she went to buy it. When he came home from work, she said, “I’ve found accommodation for us, but you’re going to have to run that phone company. And that’s how they got their start.