DALE COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) — Alabama has received a boost to expand broadband in underserved areas after the U.S. Treasury Department approved an additional 191 million dollars for the state to ease a major inconvenience.

“Both the state and federal government have made leaps and bounds to fill this gap,” said Brenda Overton, the Pea River Electric Broadband Vice President.

A gap that has been around since at least 2018 when the lack of broadband got the attention of lawmakers when they signed the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act into law. The lack of high-speed internet became noticeable for teachers in rural schools years later during the pandemic.

“Other teachers in bigger cities could continue with virtual learning but for us that was not an option,” Autumn Blalock said. “We had to send home workbook packets and our children really did lose 3-4 months of school because giving a child a worksheet is not the same as having a teacher there.”

Pea River Electric has already started making headroom on expanding broadband service in their four-county coverage area — a majority of each county lacking broadband access.

They have applied for multiple rounds of funding but have yet to be qualified for it all but it’s not delaying the process as they have 95 percent of the equipment to begin construction next month.

“Pea River said they felt like the Echo area where the school is would be wired up by the summer and so that’s huge not only have they talked about it for a while but they are going to actually do it,” Blalock said.

Overton said the internet service Pea River will be able to provide will be a game-changer to areas like Echo — consumers can get two gig speeds if they would like.

“You could probably run 30 devices and streaming 10 simultaneously never have a buffer,” Overton said.

Overton hopes to get the broadband rolled out to the whole coverage area in less than three years.