LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Oct. 30, 2023) – The Arkansas State Broadband Office (ARConnect) is now accepting public comment on Volume One of the state’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Initial Proposal. The comments will be used to help draft the state’s proposal for how Arkansas will use its $1 billion in funds through the BEAD Program to provide reliable, affordable high-speed internet to unserved and underserved households throughout the state.
In August, ARConnect submitted the state’s Five-Year Action Plan to the U.S. Department of Commerce/National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The Five-Year Action Plan provides an analysis of existing broadband assets and digital opportunity programming in the state, and it explains how funding through the BEAD program can mitigate gaps that exist.
“We are now living in a world where fast, affordable internet access is vital to economic success,” said Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald. “From the classroom to the factory to the boardroom, broadband is no longer a novelty. Now that Arkansas has been allocated more than one billion dollars in funds to get our state on an equal playing field, it’s critically important to get the public engaged and give them a way provide input on the planning and implementation of broadband across Arkansas. Your feedback is essential in helping us pave the path in our efforts to connect every unconnected household and business in all corners of the state and position Arkansas as a state where educational and economic development opportunities are attainable for all.”
The next step in the process is to publicly release the first volume of Arkansas’ initial proposal and solicit public comment. Volume One of the initial proposal details how the state will run the mapping challenge process for grant-eligible locations. Eligible challengers to the state’s forthcoming broadband map will include units of local government, nonprofit organizations, and internet service providers. Before the proposal is submitted to the federal government, it must be made available for a 30-day public comment period.
“It is critically important that our state’s residents and business owners be able to provide accurate feedback about the broadband service available to them,” said state broadband director Glen Howie. “This public comment period will allow all Arkansans to have a voice in how we design that process.”
Public comments will be accepted through Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. To review the draft proposal and associated files (Existing Broadband Funding Sources, Unserved Locations, Underserved Locations, Community Anchor Institution List), click here. To provide feedback about the state’s plan to allow for challenges to internet service availability and performance, click here.
Volume Two of the initial proposal will be released for public comment in the coming weeks.
To learn more, visit https://broadband.arkansas.gov.
About the Arkansas State Broadband Office (ARConnect)
The Arkansas State Broadband Office (ARConnect), housed within the Arkansas Department of Commerce, was created in 2019 to coordinate the state’s broadband-related activities. The office’s Arkansas Rural Connect (ARC) Grant Program provides funding to assist in the deployment and improvement of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities. For more information, visit www.broadband.arkansas.gov.