Lincoln, Pryor, Berry, Snyder, Ross Announce $7.8M to Improve Broadband Connectivity in Arkansas

Washington – U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and U.S. Representatives Marion Berry (AR-01), Vic Snyder (AR-02) and Mike Ross (AR-04) today announced that Connect Arkansas will receive a total of $7,796,866 in Recovery Act funding through the U.S. Department of Commerce to improve broadband connectivity in the state. Connect Arkansas is a private, non-profit organization that is implementing a community-based initiative to promote Internet access and education.

 Connect Arkansas has received two grant awards.  The first award – for $3,702,738 — will help Connect Arkansas expand broadband use in the state through education. Connect Arkansas will use these funds to offer basic computer training and refurbished computers to qualifying families, and will feature training in business tools, including writing basic business plans, the principles of entrepreneurship, and other key skills. In addition, Connect Arkansas will collaborate with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to oversee a comprehensive broadband-based health awareness campaign and provide hands-on training to medical facilities and health care providers. This project proposes to train approximately 2,600 residents over the life of the project, offering approximately 53,000 hours of teacher-led training to help increase broadband adoption.

 The second award – for $4,094,128 – will help Connect Arkansas to continue the development of a broad-based plan to address state broadband challenges, craft tools to enable county governments to create Web sites that will allow citizens to obtain important government services online, collect data, and develop a statewide address file that focuses on unserved and underserved communities. Lincoln, Pryor, Berry, Snyder and Ross announced another grant for $2,081,238 to begin this effort last October.

 “The availability of high-speed Internet is critical to Arkansas’s economic development and prosperity,” Lincoln said. “In order to successfully compete in this economy, Arkansas’s small and rural businesses must have access to high-speed Internet and Arkansans entering the workforce must have the skills to effectively use the Internet.  I am pleased to announce this Recovery Act investment that will strengthen our state’s workforce and economy.”

 “Access to broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity.  Broadband helps children receive a top-quality education, allows health care providers to operate more efficiently and effectively, and enables businesses to expand their customer base nationally and even globally,” Pryor said.  “As a member of the Senate Commerce and Appropriations Committees, I am proud to have helped secure these funds for Connect Arkansas, who will now be able to provide Arkansas families, businesses, and health care providers with the equipment and training necessary to get online and fully utilize broadband’s capabilities.  I will continue to champion this cause until every Arkansan has access to broadband in their communities.”

 “Connecting more Arkansans through broadband and creating a better understanding of its applications will mean improvements in everything from small business development to better efficiency in our health care system,” Berry said. “This is about giving Arkansans the opportunity to participate in these fascinating advancements in technology that will help create jobs, boost economic growth, and that will continue to play a major role in the future of Arkansas.”

 “This rural broadband funding is a major boost to our Arkansas’s economic development efforts and an important project for our residents and businesses,” Snyder said.

 “For every dollar we invest in broadband, the economy sees a ten-fold return on that investment,” Ross said. “Making broadband services available to all Arkansans will help provide greater accessibility to information and education programs, especially to those in rural areas.  Ultimately, increased access to broadband services will help our communities grow and remain competitive in this 21st century, global economy.”

 “For rural areas, broadband is a connection to the rest of the world, removing all barriers and allowing our communities to participate in the global economy,” said C. Sam Walls, President of Connect Arkansas in Little Rock. “The Internet is relevant to all areas of our lives – education, health care, small and large businesses and government. The Internet has transformed the way we get information and interact, and that is why we are excited about continuing the work of Connect Arkansas.”