Fairfield Bay has received the first Arkansas Rural Connect (ARC) broadband grant.
The Arkansas Department of Commerce awarded $1,568,750.25 to the city, in partnership with Arkansas Telephone Company (Artelco). The grant will be used to provide broadband fiber to Fairfield Bay homes.
“This is the first of many projects to be awarded to rural Arkansas communities,” Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said in a statement. “The ARC grant program is important for the long-term success of our state’s economy.”
This grant funding comes from the CARES Act, and the state CARES Act Steering committee and Arkansas General Assembly has approved $19.3 million for the ARC grants. These funds must be spent by Dec. 30, 2020, but there is $4.7 million in funding for projects that will extend past that deadline.
In the June issue of Arkansas Money & Politics, Preston wrote that Arkansas ranks 46th in the United States for broadband connectivity. The ARC grant is designed to “close this digital divide” by increasing accessing to high-speed broadband.
“To connect as many Arkansans as possible, the ARC program will be a competitive grant. Applications will be scored against each other, and the best projects will be funded until the budget is exhausted. The awards will go toward expanding the broadband footprint within the community,” he wrote.
Applications for the program will close Aug. 15. According to a Department of Commerce news release, priority will be given to projects that can deploy broadband before Dec. 30.