Arkansas is set to receive more than $1 billion in federal funding from the U.S. Commerce Department to build high-speed internet infrastructure in the state, the Biden administration announced Friday.
The funds are part of a $42.5 billion grant program created under the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill the president signed into law back in November 2021. States will use funds to “deploy or upgrade broadband networks to ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service,” according to a press release from the administration.
The federal funds destined for Arkansas are a significant chunk of the total (over 2%), considering the state’s population is less than 1% of the U.S.
Though Arkansas has been building out broadband service to some rural areas at a fairly rapid clip in recent years — aided in large part by various federal funding streams and the Arkansas Rural Connect program — the state still lags most of the country in terms of connectivity. Laying fiber in the ground is expensive, and telecoms often don’t see it as worth their while to build new infrastructure to remote towns or areas with low population densities without the help of a subsidy (even as they’ve often jealously guarded their own private infrastructure). Check out the State Broadband Office’s map to see where internet service providers offer broadband service in Arkansas.
New connectivity funding is good news for rural communities struggling to retain population. But it’s also worth remembering the various tales of graft large and small that have accompanied broadband projects in the past and keeping an eye on how this new money is spent moving forward.
Though 19 Republican senators supported the infrastructure bill, along with a handful of Republicans in the House, every member of Arkansas’s all-GOP congressional delegation in both chambers voted “no.”
Biden-Harris Administration Announces State Allocations for $42.45 Billion High-Speed Internet Grant Program as Part of Investing in America Agenda
WASHINGTON – The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced how it has allocated funding to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories to deploy affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service to everyone in America. This “Internet for All” initiative is a key component of President Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda.
States, D.C., and territories will use funding from the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to administer grant programs within their borders. The President, Vice President, and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced the allocations today at the White House.
“What this announcement means for people across the country is that if you don’t have access to quality, affordable high-speed Internet service now – you will, thanks to President Biden and his commitment to investing in America,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Whether it’s connecting people to the digital economy, manufacturing fiber-optic cable in America, or creating good paying jobs building Internet infrastructure in the states, the investments we’re announcing will increase our competitiveness and spur economic growth across the country for years to come.”
“This is a watershed moment for millions of people across America who lack access to a high-speed Internet connection. Access to Internet service is necessary for work, education, healthcare, and more,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communication and Information Alan Davidson. “States can now plan their Internet access grant programs with confidence and engage with communities to ensure this money is spent where it is most needed.”
“Put simply, high-speed Internet is a necessity in today’s society,” said Mitch Landrieu, Senior Advisor to the President and White House Infrastructure Coordinator. “Just like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act made a historic investment in rural areas bringing electricity to nearly every home in America, President Biden and Vice President Harris are committed to leaving no community behind as we connect everyone in America to high-speed Internet.”
The BEAD funding will be used to deploy or upgrade broadband networks to ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service. Once deployment goals are met, any remaining funding can be used to pursue eligible access-, adoption-, and equity-related uses.
Details related to the allocation for the states, D.C., and territories are available on InternetForAll.Gov.
States, D.C., and territories (“Eligible Entities”) will receive their formal notice of allocation on June 30, 2023. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Eligible Entities have 180 days from the date of that formal notice to submit their Initial Proposals describing how they propose to run their grant programs. Eligible Entities can begin submitting their Initial Proposals starting July 1, 2023. Once NTIA approves an Initial Proposal, which will occur on a rolling basis, Eligible Entities will be permitted to request access to at least 20 percent of their allocated funds.
To view state by state funding across the Biden-Administration’s high-speed Internet portfolio please visit InternetforAll.gov.
The post Arkansas to receive $1 billion for broadband build-out under Biden infrastructure bill appeared first on Arkansas Times.