LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (October 27, 2009) – An Arkansas private nonprofit group created to enhance broadband connectivity in the state has been awarded $2.08 million by the federal government for a detailed and extensive accessibility mapping program.
Connect Arkansas, a member of Arkansas Capital Corporation, was awarded $2.08 million by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) State Broadband Data and Development program, it was announced today.
The grant will help fund mapping efforts during the next two years that will illustrate where broadband Internet is available in Arkansas, where connectivity is unavailable or unreliable in order to lessen the “electronic divide” statewide.
“Through the NTIA’s funding, Connect Arkansas will build upon initial mapping efforts and expand the information it already has acquired from service providers to show information at a more granular level,” said C. Sam Walls, CEO of Arkansas Capital Corporation, which oversees Connect Arkansas. Walls said Connect Arkansas has established more than 100 partnerships with both public and private sector organizations throughout Arkansas to assist in the Connect Arkansas strategy.
In 2007, Gov. Beebe signed the Connect Arkansas Act, which seeks to increase the use and availability of broadband Internet within Arkansas. Beebe also designated Connect Arkansas as the lead agency for federal broadband mapping support.
“Today’s announcement will allow the state to continue to make strides in improving broadband availability. Gov. Beebe understands the value of broadband, especially its ability to improve the lives of Arkansans and their access to healthcare and educational opportunities,” said Chris Masingill, Arkansas Recovery Implementation Director.
“Connect Arkansas has already secured nearly half a million dollars for planning in matching funds,” said Walls. “We are committed to this program to improve Arkansas’s ranking in broadband and Internet accessibility.” A 2008 State New Economy Index ranked Arkansas No. 47 in its ability to compete in the new economy. Arkansas ranks No. 49 in deployment of broadband telecommunications.
“According to reports, full broadband deployment in Arkansas may create as many as 8,200 new jobs and generate more than $2.6 billion annually in additional Gross State Product,” said Walls.
Using these broadband connectivity maps Connect Arkansas will work with state leadership to develop a strategic plan for IT deployment statewide, as well as work with communities to provide Internet access and computer training, and support opportunities for private ownership of computers and computer technologies.