Arkansas uses $1 billion grant to launch its Internet access campaign

While Oklahoma narrows the focus of bringing broadband service to the state’s rural areas, Arkansas is doing much the same, with the help of a more than $1 billion grant from the federal government.

Glen Howie, the state’s broadband director: “We are going to do our very best to make sure the $1 billion is put to use in the most effective manner,” reported Arkansas Business. 

He and others in the Arkansas Broadband Office have spent the past six months learning of the need for improved internet access in the state.

The state will receive the $1 billion in federal funding next year and in preparation for it, has done just like Oklahoma—undertaken an effort to learn from towns and cities about the challenges that exist regarding access to reliable high-speed internet.

Arkansas Business reported the state’s broadband office will receive $1.024 billion out of the $42.45 billion from the Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment or BEAD program, the same program that funded Oklahoma’s effort.

“We will have enough money to finish the job,” Glen Howie, the state’s broadband director who was appointed to the position last summer, told Arkansas Business.

“The No. 1 priority for us is to connect every remaining unserved and underserved location in the state,” Howie said. “We have a long way to go. We have a lot to do, but we are going to do our very best to make sure the $1 billion is put to use in the most effective manner.”

It is estimated that nearly 215,000 homes and businesses across Arkansas do not have any internet access, that or else they need upgrades to high-speed broadband infrastructure. Just as Oklahoma’s Broadband Office recently concluded its listening tour across the state, Howie did the same in Arkansas. The state received more than $1 billion in dozens of broadband infrastructure grants since 2020. The funding was for 185 projects and 103 have been completed with 60 still under construction.