U.S. Treasury OKs Arkansas' plan to invest $47.5M of federal funds in broadband projects

Arkansas is one of the five latest states to obtain the U.S. Treasury Department’s approval of its plan to invest federal American Rescue Plan Coronavirus Capital Projects funding in broadband infrastructure projects that will provide high-speed internet to locations that lack access to adequate service, the department announced Tuesday morning.

Arkansas plans to invest $47.5 million of these funds to serve about an estimated 5,500 homes and businesses through its Arkansas Rural Connect broadband grant program, the U.S. Treasury said in a news release.

Areas in Arkansas eligible for Coronavirus Capital Projects funds through this program are generally less densely populated, more rural and have higher numbers of socioeconomically disadvantaged residents, the department said.

Each of the internet service providers funded by the program will participate in the Federal Communications Commissions Affordable Connectivity Program – a $30 per month subsidy for low-income families, according to the U.S. treasury.

The other four latest states to obtain the department’s approval of their plans include Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, and North Dakota, the release states.

The five states have been approved to collectively receive about $408 million under the American Rescue Plan to connect more than 90,000 homes and businesses to affordable high-speed internet.

In April, the Broadband Development Group, a broadband consultant, said Arkansas will need about $550 million to extend broadband access to households throughout the state still without high-speed broadband.

The report concluded that Arkansas has 251,000 households lacking adequate broadband access, meaning those with internet speeds less than 100 megabits per second.

At that time, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state anticipated future funding through the federal Coronavirus Capital Project funds, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and a second installment of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

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