Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Commerce Secretary Mike Preston have named Nathan Smith, Ph.D., as the state’s first broadband manager.
The position, which was amended by Act 792 of 2019, will lead the governor’s efforts to deploy high-speed broadband to all Arkansas communities with more than 500 residents by 2022, a goal announced in May as part of the State’s Broadband Plan. The high-speed broadband would have a rate of 25 megabits per second for download and three megabits per second for upload.
“Access to high-speed broadband in our rural communities is critical to the long-term success of our state’s economy, and it will improve the quality of life for our citizens,” Hutchinson said. “Earlier this year, I asked Dr. Smith to lead the development of a broadband plan for Arkansas that would achieve that goal within the next four years. Dr. Smith’s leadership in that effort, as well his knowledge and experience, make him the perfect fit to be the state’s first broadband manager.”
Smith, who serves as research director at the department of commerce, will assume the position on Wednesday (July 24) when Act 792 goes into effect. He will serve in both roles at his existing salary and with existing resources.
“In the course of helping develop the Arkansas State Broadband Plan, I enjoyed getting to know the issues and the players in the broadband space,” Smith said. “I’ve gained an appreciation of its intricacy and importance. I look forward to working with colleagues in the executive branch and the private sector to pool expertise. The state broadband office will maintain objectivity and a commitment to the public interest as we face the decisions ahead.”
Prior to his work as Economic Policy Director at the Arkansas Development Finance Authority in 2017, Dr. Smith ran education finance projects at the World Bank, worked for an education technology startup, taught economics at a small Christian college in California, and studied the impact of U.S. fiscal policy on savings rates at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. He also served as a statistical program supervisor for the state government of Maine.
“I’m thrilled to have Dr. Nathan Smith serve on the executive team for the Department of Commerce and as broadband manager for the state,” Preston added. “Earlier this year, Dr. Nathan Smith led the charge through the Arkansas Department of Finance Authority to create a statewide broadband plan that will allow equal access to high-speed broadband in rural areas of our state. This plan is critical for the success of Arkansas’ growing economy.”