Windstream, a privately held communications and software company, has announced that construction will begin this month on the first of seven fiber broadband expansion projects funded in partnership with the State of Arkansas.
The projects will deliver Kinetic by Windstream gigabit-speed internet service to more than 15,100 households and small businesses in rural areas of seven Arkansas counties.
The fiber-to-the-premises projects were made possible by $46.3 million in state grants funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act and administered by the Arkansas Rural Connect (ARC) Broadband Program. Windstream will invest $17.2 million of its own capital, bringing the total program cost to $63.5 million. Fiber networks provide the fastest, most reliable internet service and will meet customers’ bandwidth needs for generations to come.
Windstream President and CEO Tony Thomas was joined today in Grant County at the first project announcement by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Commissioner Brendan Carr of the Federal Communications Commission and Grant County Judge Randy Pruitt.
“I want to thank Governor Hutchinson and Commissioner Carr for their leadership and tireless efforts to expand broadband to high-cost rural areas,” Thomas said. “Without the kind of public-private partnership we celebrate here today, it would not be economically feasible to build fiber networks to the most rural communities in America. Collectively, our nation has a once-in-a generation opportunity to reach unserved and underserved areas, and Windstream is eager to do our part across our 18-state footprint.”
“With access to high-speed internet, you can run the world from your front porch,” said Governor Hutchinson. “It is important that we expand access to all of Arkansas so that more people will have that opportunity. This much-needed expansion will level the playing field for more Arkansans in rural areas by giving them internet resources that are available in cities.”
“I am pleased to be here today for the kickoff of this fiber broadband expansion project,” said Commissioner Carr. “I applaud Governor Hutchinson for his establishment of the Arkansas State Broadband Office, as well as the Arkansas Rural Connect program. By making broadband a priority, he has recognized the transformative impact of connectivity on all aspects of life in the Natural State. The seven projects we celebrate today represent the successes of public-private partnerships in delivering next-gen connectivity to rural communities, and should serve as a model for other states as they deploy federal broadband funding in unserved areas.”
Thomas thanked Grant County Judge Pruitt for partnering with Windstream to secure the ARC funding. The project will deliver fiber connections to approximately 6,380 homes and businesses in rural parts of Grant County, with the state contributing $10.8 million and Windstream investing $7.2 million.
Construction work in Grant County will begin this month, and completion is expected in the spring of 2022.
“Access to robust broadband service is critical to the future growth of the county,” said Randy Pruitt, Grant County judge. “Fiber broadband will meaningfully enhance the daily lives of our citizens and support remote learning for students and telehealth needs of our families. We are very appreciative of this partnership with Windstream and the State of Arkansas.”
Windstream also received ARC grants for fiber broadband expansion in Carroll, Faulkner, Perry, Searcy, Sevier and Van Buren counties.
In 2020, Windstream was awarded nearly $5 million in ARC grants funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to provide fiber-to-the-premises connections and up to 1 Gig internet service to approximately 1,600 households and small businesses in four Arkansas counties – Cleburne, Dallas, Montgomery and White. Windstream contributed almost $1 million to the projects, which were completed in 2021.