U.S. Treasury approves Arkansas plan to invest $47.5 million of federal funds in broadband projects

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Arkansas is one of the last five states to gain US Treasury Department approval of its plan to invest US federal funding from the Coronavirus Capital Projects bailout in broadband infrastructure projects that will provide a high-speed Internet access to locations that lack access to adequate service, the department announced Tuesday morning.

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

Areas of Arkansas eligible for Coronavirus Capital Projects funds under 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 US Treasury.

The other four latest states to have their plans approved by the department are Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska and North Dakota, according to the release.

The five states have been approved to collectively receive about $408 million as part of the US bailout 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 expand broadband access to households across the state that still don’t have from broadband to broadband.

The report concluded that Arkansas has 251,000 homes without adequate broadband access, that is, those with internet speeds below 100 megabits per second.

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

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