With well more than half of the residents of rural Arizona still lacking access to the internet, a move is underway to fund new broadband construction.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has announced the creation of an initiative that will be housed inside the Arizona Commerce Authority specifically devoted to spurring grant funding for rural broadband development programs.
In his 2019 fiscal year budget, Ducey observed that “high speed internet is essential for accelerating economic development, enhancing education, expanding access to healthcare, improving public safety, and modernizing government services.”
The Governor added that some $3 million will be made available in matching funds for the purpose of offsetting “the construction costs of expanding broadband services in underserved rural areas across the state.”
Those areas also include tribal communities where the lack of high-speed connectivity has been particularly high.
A report published last year by the Arizona Department of Administration indicated that while nearly 80 percent of the more than 7 million people who live in Arizona today have access to the internet in their homes, there are still nearly 900,000 people in the state with little or no internet connectivity.
The new initiative will spur a competitive rural broadband development grant program.
Grants, according to the Governor’s budget proposal, will be awarded to “local partnerships or ventures with clear and achievable plans to improve broadband services in one or more underserved rural areas.”
By Garry Boulard
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