Arkansas Receives Over $1 Billion in Funding From The Federal Infrastructure Act To Expand Broadband Statewide
In late June, the Biden administration awarded Arkansas over $1 billion
to expand broadband access and connections in underserved rural and urban areas across the state. As part of that funding coup, the Arkansas State Broadband Office (ASBO) recently launched its Digital Skills and Opportunity Survey as part of the state’s planning process to better understand the complexities of the digital divide.
On June 26, the Arkansas Department of Commerce, along with Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, announced that Arkansas would receive $1,024,303,993.86 from
the Broadband Equity, Access,
and Deployment (BEAD) program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA) under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The funds will expand broadband access in Arkansas and address affordability and digital skills needs throughout the state.
“This announcement will be transformational for Arkansas,” said Gov. Sanders. “With more than $1 billion now at our state’s disposal to fund broadband access, we can finally close the digital divide between rural and urban Arkansans. This puts every part of our state on an equal playing field and unlocks a world of potential for businesses, schools, and everyday Arkansans.
As part of the Federal funding package, Arkansas also received more than $840,000 to study the state’s digital divide, create a plan to address its digital skills gap and learn more
about the unique challenges that stand in the way of various segments of the state’s population concerning affordability and access to high-speed internet.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson created the ASBO in 2019 to study ways to provide broadband access to 110,000 underserved households throughout all areas of the state, and it is overseeing the development of both plans. It is committed to expanding access to affordable, high-speed internet to all Arkansans.
To ensure the agency engages with all segments of the population, the office has contracted with Heartland Forward, a Bentonville-based nonprofit organization, to coordinate engagement with Arkansas counties,