The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will spend $11.8 million to improve rural broadband access in Arkansas. The money will come in the form of grants from the ReConnect Program, a $550 million initiative to improve rural broadband service throughout the country.
Companies in four counties in Arkansas – Stone, Marion, Pope, and Van Buren – will receive grants through the program. A timeline for completing these projects was not released.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said Wednesday (Oct. 7) the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for expanded broadband as many employees are working from home and need reliable internet service. Improved Internet services will also impact healthcare in the future, he added.
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is right now as our nation manages the coronavirus emergency,” he said. “Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children and remote business operations all require access to broadband. I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on.”
Stone County based Mountain View Telephone Company is slated to receive $2.9 million in grants from the program. The broadband expansion in the county will impact 1,331 residents, 39 farms, six businesses and will provide service to two fire stations and a post office.
Marion County based Northern Arkansas Telephone Company will receive $4.7 million in grants from the program. It will provide fiber to the premises networks impacting 1,202 residents, 68 farms, and six businesses.
Arkansas Telephone Company, who operates in Pope and Van Buren counties, will receive $4.1 million in grants. The grants will impact 491 residents, 92 farms, and four businesses in the two-county area.