The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has outlined more plans for the large federal grant it has received to establish or upgrade broadband connections at 474 health care and education sites across Arkansas.
The $102,131,393 federal grant - one of the largest ever received by an Arkansas institution - was announced Wednesday at UAMS by Rick Wade, senior advisor and deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In addition to the $102 million grant, UAMS and its partners are providing a 20.6 percent match of $26,450,427.
The new connectivity will enable medical specialists to provide care to rural areas using two-way interactive video (telemedicine).
The broadband funding is the second-largest federal grant for an infrastructure project. Only West Virginia, with a $126 million grant, has received a larger federal grant for broadband infrastructure.
"Arkansas is about to have one of the most connected health care systems in the nation," Wade said. "This grant represents an investment that will pay dividends for generations, but there's no dollar figure for the lives saved, the new educational opportunities and the overall quality-of-life benefits this will bring to the people of Arkansas."
Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant was approved by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The grant will enable fiber connections and/or bandwidth upgrades in all 75 counties and in 135 Arkansas communities, including 81 Arkansas hospitals, all two-year colleges (four-year colleges are already connected), eight public libraries, all state human development centers, the state's trauma network, community health centers, mental health clinics and home health agencies..
The completed network has the potential for expansion to 3,926 additional community institutions. Those include 1,072 K-12 public schools, 29 charter schools, 305 private schools, 412 long-term care facilities, 758 provider clinics, 231 public libraries, 203 licensed ambulance services, 264 police departments, 575 fire departments and 77 offices of emergency management.
The vast majority of connections will be made by leasing more than 3,700 miles of existing broadband lines, while another 379 miles are slated for fiber network construction. Counting existing fiber lines, the broadband network totals more than 5,600 miles.
The new broadband capabilities will also provide new research opportunities for UAMS's Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) of the National Institutes of Health. The CTSA grant enables institutions to translate basic science discoveries into speedier treatments and cures for patients.
Spending from the grant will include:
• $28 million to construct fiber optic network routes to serve community colleges
• $22 million for telemedicine equipment for hospitals, clinics and home health sites
• $5 million for network equipment for community colleges
• $24 million for connectivity lease charges for participating sites
• $23 million for network infrastructure
To manage fiber construction and connectivity at the two-year colleges, UAMS will grant a subaward to the Arkansas Research & Education Optical Network (AREON), the state's only publicly owned fiber optic network currently serving four-year universities.
Based on existing enrollment figures, the connections among the two-year colleges will benefit about 58,000 students and 50,000 work force trainees.