Lawmakers Expand Eligibility for Rural Broadband Grant Program

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The Arkansas Department of Commerce said Friday that all companies, including electric cooperatives and their subsidiaries, capable of deploying broadband to rural Arkansas are now eligible to apply for an Arkansas Rural Connect (ARC) grant. 

The Arkansas Legislative Council executive subcommittee approved the change outlined in a supplemental emergency ARC rule this week. The rule also gives further flexibility to the threshold that requires 500 population and retail customers, allowing towns under that population threshold to apply.

The ARC program had previously received $25 million in state and federal CARES Act funding. In August the CARES Act Steering Committee and the Legislature approved an additional $100 million for the program to deploy broadband in rural Arkansas.

The department is evaluating applications with a focus on projects that can deploy broadband to qualified areas before Dec. 30. It has already awarded grants to several municipalities and companies.

More information on the program and how to apply for grants are available here.