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Hutchinson Announces Plan to Expand Broadband Internet Access

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By 2022, the number of communities in the state of Arkansas that have high-speed internet will be increasing if Gov. Asa Hutchinson gets his way.

Hutchinson announced the Arkansas State Broadband Plan today, which is designed to provide high-speed internet to all communities with a population of more than 500 residents. This plan, which is projected to be completed by 2022, would provide internet service with a rate of 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits per second for uploading.

The purpose of this initiative, according to the Governor’s plan, is to “overcome regional inquities” that exist between urban and rural areas. Acknowledging that it is easier to establish broadband in concentrated areas, Hutchinson contends that it is critical to level the playing field by providing quality internet service for residencies in the countryside.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, in rural areas, 68.6 percent of Americans had access to “fixed terrestrial services at 25 Mbps/3Mbps and mobile LTE at speeds of 5 Mbps/1 Mbps” while 97 percent of Americans in urban had access to the same services.

There will be towns across Arkansas that do not meet the criteria for Hutchinson’s plans. Some of the towns that do not meet the criteria, either in full or in part of the territory they cover, are Charleston, De Witt, Etowah, Eudora, Fairfield Bay, Gould, Hamburg, Hampton, Harrisburg, Huttig, Lewisville, Mineral Springs, Nashville, Ozark and Smackover.

According to the broadband report, approximately 641,000 Arkansans do not have access to a wired internet connection capable of a download speed of 25 Mbps, and approximately 721,000 Arkansans have access to only one internet service provider and 251,000 individuals do not have wire internet providers where they live.

“Arkansas has already established itself as a national leader in providing high-speed, broadband connectivity to our schools. Today, as a result, our students are developing 21st century skills in the classroom to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “Our focus now extends beyond our schools and into our rural communities. Equal access to high-speed broadband in rural Arkansas is a critical component to the success and longevity of our state’s economy, and I believe this plan will help us accomplish that goal within the next four years.”

To achieve the goals of the broadband plan, the state government plans to utilize available federal programs that subsidize and encourage rural broadband expansion, create “smart regulations” that encourage expansion and competition in broadband services, reform existing state-owned assets to allow private companies to deliver broadband, increase broadband education and create marketing about the progress of the broadband deployment to “encourage investment in Arkansas.”

To read the full report, click here.

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