Chris Jones believes that all Arkansans deserve efficient and equitable access to dependable and cutting edge broadband. Improving and expanding broadband, especially for rural and low-income communities, is needed to realize growth for small businesses, connect Arkansans to jobs and education opportunities, and support development and healthy living in rural communities.
In his personal career, Chris Jones has seen firsthand how access to fast, reliable broadband is absolutely necessary for education, economic growth, and innovation. Arkansas should not be falling behind its peer state neighbors of Oklahoma, Alabama, and Missouri in broadband access.
Arkansas lags behind many other states in broadband infrastructure and access, with 26% of the state population underserved with minimum access. The problem is more pronounced for rural and low-income residents, but the entire state is held back by poor connectivity and slow speeds.
With the passage of the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill in Congress, Arkansas is set to receive $100 million specifically allocated for broadband infrastructure improvement projects. This provides an opportunity for the state to rise above partisan politics, and leverage these funds to improve broadband access. Expanding and improving broadband will encourage economic growth, help residents access jobs, education, and healthcare, and connect far-flung communities to each other across geographic distance.
To improve and expand broadband access, Chris Jones would:
Work to create training programs through local community colleges to increase the number of workers to lay fiber as a key focus in trade certificate and education programs.
Support technical assistance navigator programs to aid local governments in proposing needed changes and implementation to speed up broadband improvements.
Incentivize service providers to expand broadband access.
Follow a history of leveraging private-public partnerships to extend the reach of the federal grant program.
Designate a senior-level position on the cabinet to ensure execution of this priority.