ELKINS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The U.S. Department of Treasury announced a $47.5 million investment into broadband infrastructure in Arkansas. An estimated 5,500 households and businesses are expected to be impacted.
This funding comes from the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund. It’s up to the state to determine which areas will get the infrastructure developments.
Audra Bell is the director for Elkins Public Library. She said broadband coverage isn’t great throughout the surrounding area and is still not as far-reaching in rural America as it needs to be.
“This is a huge step, a successful step, for everyone who believes in digital inclusion,” said Bell.
According to Bell, it’s becoming standard practice for businesses and people to rely on high-speed internet to accomplish necessary tasks, and it’s essential that everyone has access to the much needed resource.
“Filing for any government assistance, if you’re needing SNAP, if you’re needing Medicaid, health insurance, applying for jobs. Especially when most things were shut down for COVID. Everything was telehealth,” said Bell.
Angie Cooper is the Chief Program Officer for Heartland Forward. The organization is a non-profit that works to improve economic performance across the country.
“We believe if you are not connected to the internet, it’s really hard to participate in today’s economy,” said Cooper.
Cooper said once broadband is made available in a community, there are resources to help individuals pay for it- such as the affordable connectivity program.
“That will allow families that are eligible to receive $30 a month for services. So, they can get connected,” said Cooper.
While cooper is excited about this funding, she says there’s still more to come.
“It’s going to take all of us working together to ensure the additional funding that comes to the state of Arkansas is put in the right place and we get people connected as soon as possible,” said Cooper.
The U.S. Department of Treasury also announced broadband funding for Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska and North Dakota. A total of $408 million was granted, and more than 90,000 homes and businesses nationwide will be impacted.
The Elkins Public Library looks forward to seeing what the future holds for Arkansans who don’t have a critical resource.
“I think we’re excited to see where this funding is going to go and exactly who’s going to be able to use it,” said Bell.
You can find out more about the broadband funding here.