Arkansas Likely to Benefit From Broadband Stimulus

by Jamie Walden  on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 5:35 pm  

The Senate also specified $250 million must be available for grants for "innovative programs to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service," the bill said. That portion could be used to fund the educational endeavors of organizations such as Connect Arkansas.

The Senate bill, in an effort to expedite the stimulative effect, tacked a use-it-or-lose-it clause onto the funds, which will remain available until Sept. 30, 2010, the end of the country's fiscal year.

The House urged the distributing parties to immediately start handing out the cash by ordering that at least $3 billion must be awarded by Sept. 30, 2009.

Ahead of the Game?

Also within the House's 647-page draft of the recovery act is a 20-word clause that, if retained in the final bill, could put Arkansas in a position to receive a larger-than-average cut of the money. Here's how:

The House bill, presumably in an effort to accelerate economic development, says that organizations that can act the quickest on broadband deployment become priority recipients.

"That priority for awarding such funds shall be given to activities that can commence promptly following enactment of this Act," the bill states.

Legislation passed in 2007 created Connect Arkansas, a nonprofit under the umbrella of Arkansas Capital Corp. Group of Little Rock and dedicated to expanding broadband access around the state.

"We're optimistic that maybe we have a running start," said Les Lane, vice president of Connect Arkansas.

Connect Arkansas will play a strategic planning and educational role to help counties in Arkansas streamline the process of launching broadband in unserved and underserved areas.

Many states will first need to determine which areas don't have broadband or have inadequate broadband before deploying broadband in those areas, but Connect Arkansas completed that year-long project last week and immediately shared its broadband inventory map (PDF) with Arkansas Business. (Click here (PDF) to see a map of wireline broadband availability in Arkansas.)

Lane said many states don't have a Connect Arkansas-like organization, putting them a bit behind states like Arkansas, Kentucky, Ohio and several others.

Arkansas, thanks to some gubernatorial forethought, has already done its mapping process.

The Ripple Effect



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