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Arkansas Electric Co-ops to Spend $1.66 Billion on Broadband Expansion

Diamond State Networks, a coalition of 13 Arkansas electric co-ops, is the state’s newest wholesale broadband provider with the goal of bringing high-speed Internet access to 1.25 million rural Arkansans.

The Jonesboro-based coalition is co-managed by Mitchell Johnson, President and CEO of Ozarks Electric, and Jeremiah Sloan, President and CEO of Craighead Electric. The Board of Directors includes leaders of the 13 partner cooperatives or subsidiary fiber networks. Diamond State’s network will cover over 64% of Arkansas with over 50,000 miles of fiber.

“Together, the 13 electricity cooperatives have invested or plan to invest more than $1.66 billion in broadband communications infrastructure, exclusively in fiber optic networks. Focused on reliability, quality and sustainability, the network will serve nearly 600,000 potential customer locations and have a hugely positive impact on the state’s economy by helping to make Arkansas a place where people want to live. and doing business for years to come,” a statement from the network noted.

Johnson said connecting the co-op’s broadband networks will bring affordable high-speed Internet access to “every corner of our state.”

“Ultimately, this will provide local ISPs with better access and ability to deliver their services, as well as better opportunities to directly serve businesses with reliable connectivity wherever they are. We are making it affordable to access more areas with best-in-class technology to close the gaps from past limitations,” Johnson said.

Diamond State’s expansion is expected to help reach Arkansas households without high-speed broadband access. A recent report of the Broadband Development Group (BDG) said the state has 210,000 homes that are underserved by broadband, but 100,000 of those are covered by federal and state programs. With federal funding, the remaining 110,000 homes could be reached at a cost of up to $550 million.

The report says 110,000 households are not covered by any federal program and it would take up to $550 million to reach them. This money can come from the American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act programs. Of these, 100,000 households can be reached for between $254 million and $358 million within three years.

The final 10,000 households, many of them in the most rural and sparsely populated areas of Arkansas, would need more than $200 million, or about $20,000 per household, according to the report.

Here are the cooperative partner entities that will be part of the Diamond States Network.
• OzarksGo
Headquartered in Fayetteville, OzarksGo is a telecommunications subsidiary of Ozarks Electric Cooperative, providing all-fiber Gigabit Internet and premium TV and phone services to Northwest Arkansas and Northeast USA. Oklahoma.

• Clay County Connection
Based in Corning, the partner is a wholly owned subsidiary of Clay County Electric Cooperative Corporation (CCECC), serving members in Clay, Randolph and Greene counties.

• Farmers Electricity Cooperative
Based in Newport, the network serves members in Independence, Jackson, Poinsett and Woodruff counties.

• Small jeans fiber
Based in Clinton, Petit Jean is a subsidiary of Petit Jean Electric Cooperative, serving members in central Arkansas.

• Lit by Woodruff Electric
Based in Forrest City, the partner is a subsidiary of Woodruff Electric Cooperative, serving parts of Woodruff, Prairie, Monroe, Cross, St. Francis, Lee and Phillips counties in eastern Arkansas.

• NEXT Powered by NAEC
Based in Salem, NEXT is a subsidiary of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, which provides high-speed Internet, phone and television services to its members in eight northern Arkansas counties.

• Wave Rural Connect
Based in Ozark, Wave is a subsidiary of the Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative, serving members in parts of the Fort Smith metro and parts of eastern Oklahoma.

• Arkansas Fiber Network (AFN)
AFN is a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of Arkansas’ 17 electric utility cooperatives. AFN was created to provide mid-mile fiber in support of the broadband efforts of distribution cooperatives, as well as those of Diamond State Networks.

• Fiber internet in all four states
Based in Texarkana, the partner is a subsidiary of Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative, providing high-speed Internet access to members in Miller, Howard, Sevier, Columbia, Lafayette, Hempstead, Little River and Polk counties in Arkansas; Bowie and Cass counties in Texas; and McCurtain County in Oklahoma.

• empower, delivered by Craighead Electric
Based in Jonesboro, empower is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Craighead Electric Cooperative Corporation, serving customers throughout northeast Arkansas.

• MCEC fiber
Based in Blytheville, MCEC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mississippi County Electric Cooperative, serving members in northern Mississippi County, Arkansas.

• Central-south connection
Based in Arkadelphia, the partner is a subsidiary of South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative, serving members in Clark, Hot Spring, Pike, Montgomery and Nevada counties.

• Connect2First
Based in Jacksonville, the partner is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Electric, serving members throughout central and southeast Arkansas.