MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. – Governor Asa Hutchinson announced early Friday that North Arkansas Electric Cooperatives fiber subsidiary NEXT won $27.5 million in the recent Federal Communications Commission auction.
“I see the progress that’s been made,” said Gov. Hutchinson. “The difference it makes in the businesses’ and the homeowners’ lives when they can have access to internet, we’ve got to do this across the state. So we’re going to continue to invest in it. We’re going to accelerate that because it’s critical in today’s world.”
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I award will help the company with its $130 million expansion project across North Arkansas. NEXT currently serves more than 5,500 subscribers along 2,000 miles of fiber optic cable in parts of Baxter, Fulton, Izard and Sharp counties. The company expect to expand that by 1,200 miles in 2021.
According to Mel Coleman, CEO of NAEC and NEXT, high speed internet has become as vital as electricity throughout rural parts of the state.
“Four years ago we started on this path of high speed internet. It’s something that’s as needed today in rural America as electricity was eighty years ago.”
Across the United States, the RDOF auction will award $9.2 billion to bring high-speed internet to 5.2 million unserved homes and businesses. Arkansas companies won more than $424 million to serve more than 200,000 locations.