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State broadband planners seek community input


LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas State Broadband Office will launch its Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) mapping challenge process on Wednesday, March 20.
This months-long process will enable stakeholders in Arkansas to challenge the accuracy of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Map and the levels of internet service reported at homes and businesses throughout the state. Stakeholders will be able to challenge data provided by the map but must submit evidence of the inaccuracies.
Eligible challengers in this process include units of local government, nonprofit organizations, and internet service providers, under federal BEAD program regulations.
The Arkansas State Broadband Office has worked to allow everyday Arkansans the ability to have their voices heard in the months leading up to the mapping challenge. The state’s mapping challenge portal system will allow for units of local government and nonprofit organizations to submit challenges on behalf of everyday Arkansans.
“We have been preparing for this process for well over a year,” said State Broadband Director Glen Howie. “As a result of intensive stakeholder outreach and engaged residents across the state, our counties are organized and ready to go. We look forward to launching this historic process.”
The broadband mapping challenge process will be conducted in advance of the state awarding broadband infrastructure grants.
The BEAD program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), provides $42.45 billion to U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia to expand broadband access, fund deployment and mapping, and address affordability and digital skills needs. In June 2023, the NTIA announced that Arkansas would be awarded $1,024,303,993.86 in BEAD funding to expand broadband access and address affordability and digital skills needs in the state.
The Arkansas State Broadband Office was authorized to begin the mapping challenge process following the NTIA’s approval of Arkansas’ BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 1. This proposal outlines how the state will run its mapping challenge process for grant-eligible locations.
Tentative timeline for Arkansas’ BEAD mapping challenge process:
March 12, 2024: User guide and location listings posted online; portal registration begins
March 20, 2024: Challenge portal opens; challenges accepted for 30 days
April 19, 2024: Challenge rebuttals accepted for 30 days
May 19, 2024: Challenge adjudication begins
June 17, 2024: Challenge process concludes
The new state broadband map and challenge portal system can be accessed on the Arkansas State Broadband Office’s website at broadband.arkansas.gov. A user guide and additional resources are also available, including a new and improved speed test application.
For more information about how to participate in this process, please contact the Arkansas State Broadband Office via email at broadband@arkansas.gov.