$1.6M grant to help fund broadband project in Montgomery County

DEWAYNE HOLLOWAY/dewayne@mcnews.online

MOUNT IDA – Local business leaders, government officials and students gathered to help Windstream announce a $1.6 million dollar project that will bring fiber optic service to many of Montgomery County’s residents.

The announcement came this afternoon, Friday, September 11, at a special press conference held on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Mount Ida.

Representatives from the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce, ARCO of Montgomery County, Windstream and the county government spoke at the press conference. Chamber President Pat Smith opened with a few remarks about how excited everyone is to see this project finally begin. The need for improved internet access is a priority for the Chamber of Commerce and ARCO.

Justin Neel followed with a few words regarding the grant received that will fund 85 percent of the project. Justin is a teacher at Caddo Hills School and is also the head of the ARCO in Montgomery County committee that is working to improve internet access in the county.

Justin Neel shares the importance of adequate internet access in Montgomery County and the importance it plays in education, telemedicine and those who work from home. – Photo by Dewayne Holloway

Justin pointed out that better internet access benefits telemedicine, virtual learning capabilities and people who work from home.

Bo Ramsey, spoke on behalf of Windstream. He told the small crowd gathered in the courtyard that Windstream was excited to be a part of this project. He stated that the project will provide fiber optic connections with gigabyte speed. He added that they would not be able to take on a project of this size in Montgomery County without the money made available through the grant.

County Judge Sammy Jones reiterated the thoughts of everyone else regarding the benefits this project will bring to Montgomery County. He shared a personal story of a friend who moved because the internet access wasn’t good enough to work from home. This forced his friends to move to a more populated area with better internet access. He added that people come through his office looking for a home to purchase and internet access is one of their most important concerns.

The project will bring fiber optic service to designated homes in the Mount Ida, Norman and Pencil Bluff area. Justin Neel stated that this is the first grant received and that there are already two other grants in the works with a third on the way. The project announced today will be completed by December 31, 2020.

Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce President Pat Smith provides opening remarks at Friday’s press conference held at the Montgomery County Courthouse. They announced a $1.6M grant that will help fund fiber optic internet service to three areas in Montgomery County. – Photo by Dewayne Holloway

Justin said that it isn’t their goal to bring internet service to some of Montgomery County, but to provide adequate internet service to all of the county residents.

The grant was received from Arkansas Rural Connect.

A website has been set up to offer updates and a place for people to ask questions regarding the project. Maps of projected homes to receive fiber optic service can be found on the website. The website can be found at https://sites.google.com/caddohills.org/arco-broadband/home


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