Alabama had a population of 4,661,900 according to 2008 census figures. In terms of internet service, it has an average download speed of 4.6 mbps according to a 2009 report by the Communication Workers of America. Data from the 2007 US Census showed that just over half of homes had internet access, putting the state ahead of only Mississippi in internet penetration. Around a quarter of home users were still on dial-up, reflected in figures showing 21% of Alabama residents had download speeds below 768 kbps.
'Connecting Alabama', a two-year initiative to increase the availability of broadband internet services, was launched in 2009. The project is working with over 100 internet providers across the state to create maps of served and unserved communities, the latter being those with only one ISP option or speeds below the basic broadband service level. The maps are to be made interactive so visitors can identify an internet provider that offers a high speed broadband service in their area
The level of internet penetration is due to a combination of low incomes and rural communities. The situation is improving slowly, with DSL and fiber optic cable increasingly being available in larger towns. However, in smaller towns and rural areas, availability is limited and users have either dial-up or the more expensive option of a satellite service. Wifi is restricted to areas of larger population, with Verizon offering a free service at around 125 locations, mainly hotels and coffee shops. Many libraries and public facilities also offer free wireless internet access.
With a ranking of thirtieth in total land area and second in the size of inland waterways, Alabama comprises 60% gentle plain with mountains to the North and a coastline onto the Gulf of Mexico. A dependence on agriculture has changed with the introduction of heavy industries, biotechnology and medical research, banking and telecommunications.
Birmingham is the city with the highest population while Montgomery, the state capital, comes second. Next is Mobile, the oldest city in the state and its only seaport. Huntsville, the city with the largest land area, is fourth and is known as 'Rocket City' due to the presence of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the Redstone Arsenal. The state is home to US Army and US Air Force bases.
Cities in Alabama likely to have, or soon to receive, fiber optic cable internet services include Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa and Hoover. Locations in AL with highest population counts will be targeted first by providers, though relatively high speeds can be achieved with dial-up or DSL through companies such as Netzero and Charter Communications Cable.