FAIRFIELD BAY — The Arkansas Department of Commerce has announced its first Arkansas Rural Connect (ARC) broadband grant. The grant, in the amount of $1,568,750.25, is awarded to Fairfield Bay in partnership with Arkansas Telephone Company (Artelco). The project will deploy fiber to homes in Fairfield Bay.

“This is the first of many projects to be awarded to rural Arkansas communities,” said Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. “The ARC grant program is important for the long-term success of our state’s economy.”

The Arkansas Department of Commerce received $19.3M in CARES Act funds for ARC grants after an approval from the CARES Act Steering Committee and the Arkansas legislature. Grant recipients must expend the COVID-19 federal funds by December 30 of this year. Additionally, $4.7M is available in state funds for projects that would extend beyond December 30. The goal of the program is to provide high speed broadband to rural communities.

City of Fairfield Bay Mayor Paul Wellenberger said one of the reasons Fairfield Bay was chosen as a first recipient of this grant was because Artelco and Fairfield Bay had a “shovel ready” program for broadband installation.

“COVID-19 reminds us that broadband is a necessity. Arkansans need strong connectivity for telemedicine, distance education, and telework,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “Broadband and the ARC program are vital for our response during this pandemic.”

ARC is currently evaluating applications with a focus on projects that can deploy broadband to qualified areas before December 30. For more information or to apply for an ARC grant, visit www.broadband. arkansas.gov.

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