(FAR RIGHT): Madison Co. Commissioner Violet Edwards, District 6, and broadband discussion attendees met on Wednesday, August 16, to discuss broadband accessibility. (courtesy photo)
Madison Co. Commissioner Violet Edwards, District 6, is pictured with other broadband discussion attendees. (courtesy photo)

Huntsville/Madison County – Commissioner Violet Edwards hosted White House dignitaries for a Wednesday roundtable discussion on broadband access. Mitch Landrieu, Senior Advisor to President Biden and White House Infrastructure Coordinator, and Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, joined Commissioner Edwards and community members to discuss internet availability and affordability obstacles facing North Alabama residents.

“Access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury – it is an essential tool to access education, healthcare, jobs, and justice,” said Davidson. Alabama will receive $1.4B to expand access to broadband as part of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program launched by the Biden-Harris administration. Sharing their experience during the discussion in the education field were Dr. Patricia Sims, president of Drake State Technical and Community College, Dr. Clarence Sutton, superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, and Kayla Jefferson, a teacher in Madison County. Small business owner Dr. William “Todd”

Powers represented east Madison County. Community activist Sheryl Scales shared about issues in rural Limestone County, and Rev. Wesley Thompson spoke on issues in The Shoals. Each gave firsthand accounts of challenges faced while trying to educate, minister to, and do business in communities without internet service.

“The federal government has provided the money. It is now up to our legislators to decide how and where to put it to use,” said Commissioner Edwards. “As internet access grant programs are formed, discussions like today’s are needed to ensure this money is spent where it is most needed.”

This visit to Huntsville also included a tour of Adtran. Adtran announced it would invest up to $5M at its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility to increase US production capacity of advanced telecommunications equipment.