I’m just going to give you an outline, because I don’t want you to miss out on:
- How Arkansas plans to achieve the goal of broadband Internet everywhere in the state
- What you can do now to get broadband Internet to your specific residence or business.
- How to get a discount on your monthly Internet bill – and devices for accessing the Internet.
Here we go…
1. Funding & Findings
The Arkansas State Broadband Office came to Saline County on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, to meet with local and state officials. The message was clear – to get Arkansas “up to speed” on Internet access, each county needs to start a broadband committee. These committees will help the state in its goal of 100% broadband availability by the year 2028.
The main aspect of this endeavor is just getting the infrastructure installed. While commercial Internet providers may not be able to justify the cost of building towers and laying fiber in more rural areas, the federal government passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for guaranteed nationwide funding of broadband improvements.
Arkansas received $5.8 million for building out the broadband infrastructure, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
“Today marks a tremendous milestone for the state of Arkansas as we continue the work of connecting the unconnected, prioritizing broadband affordability, and ensuring digital opportunity for all Arkansans,” said Glen Howie, Director of the Arkansas State Broadband Office. “With the approval of these planning funds, the state can now begin the process of developing innovative solutions that will provide for lasting positive impacts in education, healthcare, small business, and agriculture for generations to come.”
Both Howie and Laurie Ringler, Broadband Project Manager, lead the meeting Wednesday. Also present were Mayors from the cities of Benton, Alexander and Haskell, the Saline County Judge, Sen. Kim Hammer, Rep. Lanny Fite, Rep. Julie Mayberry, Justice of the Peace Keith Keck, representatives from the Benton and Bryant Chambers of Commerce, the Farm Bureau, the Saline County Library and more. The County Judge’s office is tasked with creating a Broadband Committee to keep the State updated on the needs. MySaline will keep the public updated on the findings of the committee.
Besides broadband, several other items are funded by the Infrastructure act. Read the entire act at www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3684 or click the link there for it to be read out loud to you.
2. Show & Tell
Great, so we have the money to do it, now where do we put it? That’s where you come in.
If you want your area to take advantage of the funding to expand high-speed Internet (you do), visit this page to learn more and follow the instructions to verify the Internet options for your specific address. The Broadband Office will report this to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for their federal broadband map. This will help funding to reach the areas where it’s needed most.
3. Cheap Mbps
Let’s just pretend Mbps is pronounced “megabeeps” so title #3 can rhyme. Did you know you can get a discount on your current Internet services if you meet certain criteria? Learn about the Affordable Connectivity Program and apply to see if you qualify for up to $30 off your monthly internet bill. There is also a device discount available, for up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. This is an ongoing nationwide program.
The State Broadband Office estimates that over 10,000 households in Saline County will qualify for the discount, yet only around 3,000 households have applied and are getting it. The criteria may be as simple as checking to see if you already receive benefits on one program – like WIC or Pell Grants. There are also income criteria.
Visit this link 👇🏻to learn more and apply.
There is another discount for residents on qualifying tribal lands. There are not any in Arkansas but it would include most of Oklahoma, all of Alaska, and several sections of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Maine, Virginia, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Hawaii. See the map at this link.
The following are previous articles on MySaline about Broadband Internet: