Arkansas broadband office’s digital skills plan receives thumbs up


The state broadband office’s plan to equip Arkansans with skills to succeed in a digital economy received federal approval, officials announced Wednesday. 

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded Arkansas nearly $844,000 to develop its Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan. The funding was part of the Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, one of three broadband grant programs created through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

The Arkansas State Broadband Office developed its plan by leveraging public, private and nonprofit partnerships, in addition to conducting 32 in-person focus groups, hosting roundtable discussions in all 75 counties and organizing a survey that gathered more than 12,000 responses, according to a press release.

Arkansas officials seek feedback on federal broadband map

“Infrastructure is only one piece of the larger broadband issue,” Arkansas State Broadband Office Director Glen Howie said. “Arkansans need access to digital devices and the digital skills to operate those devices properly to self-determine their success. This Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan lays the foundation for providing these skills in the Natural State.”

The Arkansas Digital Skills and Opportunity Plan was created to build upon the broadband office’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Five-Year Action Plan and Initial Proposals, which are focused on building out the state’s broadband infrastructure.

In June 2023, NTIA announced Arkansas would receive more than $1 billion in BEAD funding to expand broadband access and address affordability and digital skills needs in the state.

The state broadband office last month launched a process for challenging the accuracy of a federal broadband map, which will determine what areas receive funding. 

The Arkansas BEAD mapping challenge process opened on March 20 and challenges will be accepted for 30 days. 

The state broadband map and challenge portal system can be accessed at broadband.arkansas.gov


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