UA system gets $102 million to boost broadband access

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 37 views 

The University of Arkansas System will receive a $102 million grant to expand broadband access in the state, the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today.

The money will be used to enhance two existing broadband networks that serve Arkansas communities. The focus will be improving health care and education.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock will use its funds to upgrade and expand Arkansas’s broadband networks by offering substantial broadband upgrades, broadband equipment and connectivity fiber for 474 community anchor institutions, including colleges and universities, public libraries, and health care facilities, according to a statement from the office of U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

“This Recovery Act investment is a game-changer for our state that will expand broadband Internet access in all of Arkansas’s 75 counties,” Lincoln said in the statement. “Broadband access is critically important to Arkansas, providing greater access to telemedicine resources, expanding educational opportunities, and helping rural businesses grow. It has become essential for economic development and I am committed to doing everything I can to secure funding that enables Arkansans to be competitive in today’s global economy.”

The project will connect about 475 community institutions to broadband and could benefit as many as 1.32 million people and 61,000 businesses.

“In addition to the jobs this project will create, it will provide a foundation for economic growth and job creation for decades to come,” the USDA said in a news release.

The grant is one of 94 federal stimulus-funded grants announced today to improve broadband access in 37 states. The grants announced today (Aug. 18) total $1.8 billion and are part of a nearly $7 billion initiative.

It was announced in October 2009 that Arkansas would receive $2.1 million in federal stimulus dollars to map broadband access and to help expand broadband coverage in Arkansas.

Specifically, the NTIA awarded Connect Arkansas roughly $1.6 million for broadband data collection and mapping activities over a two-year period, and almost $500,000 for broadband planning activities over a 5-year period for the state. Connect Arkansas, the designated entity for the state of Arkansas, is a private nonprofit organization based in that state and managed by Arkansas Capital Corp.