Arkansas Remains 44th in Broadband Availability, Annual Study Shows

Arkansas appears to be holding its ground in moves to expand broadband availability across the state — though in a recent analysis, that means staying near the bottom of the country in broadband availability, coverage and pricing. ‘High-speed Internet.

BroadbandNow, an independent research and advocacy group that monitors nationwide broadband rollout, says Arkansas, at best, is treading water as it remains ranked 44th in the United States in making broadband accessible to residents. That’s the same rank the state had in the group’s annual report last year.

Broadband expansion has become a priority during the pandemic as schools and businesses have closed or adapted to a work-from-home environment, forcing students and employees to rely on high-speed internet service to keep up. lessons and daily tasks. Federal support grew, and states like Arkansas were able to take advantage of the funding stream to hook up homes in rural areas that were too expensive for providers to reach with internal funds.

BroadbandNow’s new analysis features state ranking, access, speeds and prices, number of providers in the state, and a range of demographic information.

About 15 percent of Arkansas homes — about 174,000 households — today lack access to wired or fixed wireless broadband service, which the Federal Communications Commission defines as speeds of 25 megabits per second for download and 3 megabits per second for downloading. . This means that approximately 2 in 10 Arkansas households do not have high-speed Internet service.

More troubling, the report says only about 25% of households have access to a “cheap wired broadband plan,” which the organization defines as priced at $60 a month or less.

Arkansas last month released a broadband master plan that the state has tasked with assessing service gaps and helping to effectively target funding to provide high-speed internet access to underserved areas. .

This study, conducted by the Broadband Development Group of Little Rock, found that approximately 210,000 homes in Arkansas did not have adequate broadband access – the study defined adequate access as download speeds of 100 megabits per second. At the same time, the study noted that planning is underway to provide and fund access to 100,000 of these homes, which would leave 110,000 homes without high-speed internet.

It would cost $550 million to provide broadband to these households, the study found, noting that they are in hard-to-reach rural areas where the cost of service is higher than in cities and communities. more populated.

Arkansas is catching up, according to BroadbandNow, when considering rolling out 1 gigabit service. About 54.7% of households have access to fast connection, pushing Arkansas to 39th in the nation. Windstream Holding Inc. of Little Rock, which provides broadband to most rural areas of the state, has committed to rolling out 1 gig service in its new deployments.

Some interesting findings from BroadbandNow:

• Pulaski County has the highest level of coverage, with nearly 96% of households having broadband access.

• Springdale has the fastest average download speed in the state of 275 megabits per second.

• Cox Communications is the fastest provider in the state, offering an average download speed of 161.8 megabits per second.

BroadbandNow says there are 154 internet service providers in the state and nearly 2,900 in the United States. The detailed report is available at Broadbandnow.com/Arkansas.

ENTREPRENEURIAL SUPPORT

Nine small businesses in central Arkansas have been selected for an accelerator program run by the Little Rock Venture Center and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The fourth spark! cohort, which seeks to grow Arkansas-based businesses, includes a range of businesses in the publishing, foodservice, beauty, and pet e-commerce industries.

“We are so excited about these nine great small businesses and their enthusiasm to learn, grow and positively impact the future of Little Rock,” said Jay Chesshir, president of the Little Rock Regional Chamber. “This group is ready to meet the challenges of our economic prosperity, and we look forward to helping make it happen.”

Spark! takes entrepreneurs through a series of programs that include sales, marketing and a corporate finance program and connects participants with mentors.

The accelerator is designed for entrepreneurs who have started a business and need technical assistance and other services to help them grow their business. “Most of them have already done the heavy lifting to start and stay in business; however, they often need the tools to take it to the next level. …Spark! will help in this business,” said Pam Reed , the Venture Center’s general manager of community programs.

This year’s participants are:

• Sara Hurst of Bella’s Kitchen & Wellness, a restaurant business.

• Alicia Adams-Talbert of Talbert Lawn Services.

• Taliah Ragland of the Aspiring Medical Training Institute, which provides professional training services.

• Dianna Donahue of Urbane Magazine, a black lifestyle publication.

• Nicole Snow and Crystal Hanner of Enova, which offers beauty products for women.

• Lendel Aikens of Med Unlimited, which offers mobile medical clinics.

• Lauren Anderson of Calm + Confidence, which promotes beekeeping and the preservation of biodiversity.

• Nicole Winstead of WoofCat, online pet snack provider.

• Kristy Carter of Kristy Carter Consults, a marketing company.

MORE HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Additional support for Arkansas entrepreneurs is available through the reimagined THRIVE Emerging Leaders Program offered by the US Small Business Administration.

The SBA is offering sessions beginning Friday to provide more information about the program. THRIVE is an advanced training series for small business owners and executives who operate businesses with at least $250,000 in revenue; have been in operation for three years; and have at least one employee other than the owner.

Participants must have a primary location in Arkansas and must attend one of the information sessions to participate in the 2022 cohort.

For more information or to register for a session, go to sba.gov/offices/district/ar/little-rock.

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