Jonesboro seeks high-speed broadband partner

by George Jared ([email protected]) 593 views 

Access to high-speed broadband internet service will be an impetus for civic leaders throughout the state in the coming years and the largest city in Northeast Arkansas is ready to expand services provided.

Mayor Harold Copenhaver said he is now asking interested parties to officially submit qualifications and visions to join the city in an internet service provider partnership that can provide high-speed broadband for every household and business in Jonesboro.

“One of my primary goals when taking the reins as mayor has been to make high-speed fiber accessible to every home in Jonesboro,” Copenhaver said. “Today, we are taking a big step toward providing good options for TV streaming and making internet service a reality.”

Copenhaver said the bid process will provide an accurate forecast of costs and viable providers, and that public-private partnerships are critical because of the expense.

“We know this will be an expensive investment,” he said. “Having conversations with the governor’s office and the State Broadband Committee, we know community partners are key to success.”

Copenhaver said too many Jonesboro neighborhoods lack viable options to Suddenlink, a subsidiary of AlticeUSA whose service is a common and leading complaint to the mayor’s office. It is also the subject of individual and class action lawsuits around the country, and many Jonesboro neighborhoods have no choice for cable TV or internet service.

“We have worked in good faith with Suddenlink since I came into office last year to try to improve their service in Jonesboro, and too many of their residential customers are not receiving fair access to thrive in 2022,” Copenhaver said. “It’s about quality of place, but internet service is a fundamental necessity in this day and time.

“We want to partner with a company that will make Jonesboro a leader – not just competitive – on the highway of the future. Affordable high-speed internet in 2022 is as vital as well-paved streets. Without it, we will fall behind as a community,” he said.

Telecom companies are currently burying broadband lines along some streets in the city, which will lead to upgrades for residential customers. Copenhaver likes that progress, but he wants it in all neighborhoods, and he wants a competitive market to maintain affordable prices for these services.

Healthcare providers are among the businesses that have expressed concerns about the lack of fast internet services.

“Having options for service is key to a better product,” he said. “But education demands are becoming more data-dependent every day, and better broadband can solve the number one impediment to health-care in Northeast Arkansas, which every hospital tells us is access.”

When Congress passed the more than $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last year, about $65 billion was allocated towards broadband expansion. The funding will largely be distributed in the form of grants and will target lower-income communities.

Arkansas ranks 47th among all states in broadband subscription rates, according to U.S. News. Subscription rates are largely driven by access.