State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

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LITTLE
ROCK – The goal of the new Arkansas State Broadband Plan, announced by the
governor, is to make high-speed Internet access available to all communities of
more than 500 people by the year 2022.

The
announcement specifically cites three Senate bills that have become law and
have streamlined the process of setting up communications technology in
under-served areas.

The
Arkansas plan uses the standard for high speed Internet as 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. That
means your Internet connection is capable of downloading 25 megabits per second
and uploading three megabits per second.

The
plan will benefit many residents of urban areas, as well as those in rural
areas. In many Arkansas towns there are neighborhoods lacking access to high
speed broadband. But other neighborhoods do have high speed access, so a map
can be deceptive because it would indicate that the entire town has a
capability of 25 mbps/3mbps.

According
to the announcement, about 251,000 people in Arkansas live in areas with no
Internet access. About 641,000 Arkansas residents have Internet access, but not
high speed Internet.

About
721,000 have access to only one Internet provider, so they cannot switch to
another company if they are unsatisfied with their quality of service. Now,
there are 136 companies providing Internet service in Arkansas.

During
this year’s regular session, the legislature approved two new acts to promote
expansion of broadband in areas that are lacking. Act 198 of 2019 allows local
governments to get involved in the creation of new Internet service. In
partnership with private companies, local entities can apply for federal
funding, loans and grants.

Act
999 of 2019 promotes the growth of wireless and communications technology
through new products such as 5G technology. Its goal is the building of new
small cells and the antennas needed to make them work. Act 999 allows
government entities to make agreements with private companies to use public
rights-of-way for those facilities.

Also
mentioned in the announcement was Act 813 of 2017, which allows for the
creation of public-private partnerships. The partnerships are not limited to
computer and communications projects. They can be for new facilities at
schools, prisons, recreation centers, utilities, water and sewer systems,
hospitals and libraries.

Expanding
broadband access throughout Arkansas is important for many reasons. It will
improve health care, by making transmittal of medical records faster and by
allowing more video-conferencing. It will improve all aspects of education. It
will promote economic development, and make opportunity more nearly equal in
all geographic areas of the state.

It
will prepare us for the next era, when broadband technology will allow
transmission of even greater amounts of data than is possible now.

Except
for the most visionary among us, the current standard of 25 mbps would have
seemed unthinkable in the 1990s, when it was necessary in many households to
unplug the telephone to access the Internet. The telephone would have been a
“landline” and many consumers referred to the Internet as the “World Wide Web.”

The
new Broadband Plan recognizes that Internet service in America has become like
electricity and running water, in that now it is so essential that government
assumes the responsibility of helping to make it available where the private
sector cannot afford to.

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Tammy Moore Teague

Tammy Moore Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; Editor - Resident Press. 20+ years experience in the news.

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