Editor’s note: Roby Brock, with our content partner Talk Business, wrote this report. He can be reached at [email protected]
CenturyLink has rolled out a plan to bring affordable, high-speed Internet access to rural Arkansas as part of a $22 billion merger with Qwest Communications.
The Federal Communications Commission said that in order to protect the public interest, the new company must launch a "major broadband adoption program for low-income consumers" in its territories, which cover parts of 37 states.
The companies must offer qualifying low-income households broadband connections starting at less than $10 per month and computers for less than $150, keeping the sign-up window open for five years.
CenturyLink’s Arkansas spokesman Jeff Jones told Talk Business that in about six months he expected his firm to be offering the low-cost service in state. Six months later, it’s here. CenturyLink is introducing "CenturyLink Internet Basics" to improve and promote broadband adoption and use by low-income consumers in Arkansas.
The discounted high-speed Internet service starts at $9.95 a month, plus applicable taxes and fees, to eligible consumers. The service provides access up to 1.5 Mbps downstream capability. Higher bandwidth services, where available, are offered at a comparable discount, CenturyLink says.
The telecom also offers program participants an Internet-ready netbook computer for $150, plus taxes, shipping and handling.
“We are pleased to bring CenturyLink Internet Basics to our local service areas in Arkansas,” said John Dreher, vice president and general manager for CenturyLink in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma, said in a statement. “This program is designed to bridge the digital divide and provide assistance to families in the communities we serve that need help getting online.”
In addition, CenturyLink is arranging basic computer education and technology through community groups and senior centers, as well as schools, libraries, and other state and local institutions, in more than 100 markets throughout the country.
The first of the free computer learning programs in Arkansas will be held at 2 pm on Nov. 17, at the Delta Technology Education Center in Dumas. Participants are encouraged to call (870) 382-1030 to register. The program is offered free to the public and it is not necessary to be a CenturyLink customer to attend.
CenturyLink serves five major regions in Arkansas: The River Valley; Fort Smith Area; Northwest Arkansas outside of the major metropolitan areas; Northeast Arkansas; and Central Arkansas from Cabot and Jacksonville down to Stuttgart.