The governor’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Steering Committee late Wednesday voted to recommend that the governor approve $150 million in federal funding for broadband deployment grants.
The committee also voted to reconvene soon to discuss hiring a consultant to guide the state’s efforts to close the digital divide.
State Commerce Secretary Mike Preston and Steven Porch, executive broadband manager for the Commerce Department’s broadband office, had asked for $300 million.
They explained to the committee that internet service providers and their partner cities and counties had already submitted qualifying Arkansas Rural Connect (ARC) grant applications for a total of $30.7 million. Another $114.7 million applied for could also be awarded as soon as deployment projects are tweaked to meet new ARPA requirements, mostly to do with speeds.
The new pandemic aid requires that the broadband deployments it funds bring speeds of 100 megabits per second for downloads and uploads. ARPA’s predecessor, the CARES Act, funded the last round of ARC grants, but it required speeds of 25 mbps and 3 mbps for download and uploads, respectively.