South Arkansas Telephone Company will receive a $32 million subsidy over 10 years to expand broadband coverage in four South Arkansas counties.

Telecommunications customers in four South Arkansas counties are expected to benefit from an announcement made Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC said that is authorizing $62.2 million in support to Arkansas carriers during the next decade for maintaining, improving, and expanding affordable broadband for 6,888 rural homes and businesses more than $4.9 billion in support over the next decade for 455,334 homes and businesses served by 171 carriers in 39 states, American Samoa, and Tribal lands.

The FCC announcement said that TLB, Inc., the holding company of South Arkansas Telephone Company in Hampton, will receive support over 10 years, including the following locations.

County           Support/10 years      Supported locations

Bradley          $17,636,368             1,577

Calhoun         $13,657,519             1,195

Ouachita        $1,705,989               331

Union            $80,960                    9

In Arkansas, funding was also announced for companies serving customers in Logan, Perry, Scott and Yell counties.

The support is targeted to smaller rural carriers, traditionally known as "rate-of-return" carriers. These carriers agreed this year to accept subsidies based on the FCC's Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM, which provides predictability, rewards efficiency, and provides more value for each taxpayer dollar. The homes and businesses are located in sparsely populated rural areas where the per-location price of deployment and ongoing costs of providing broadband service are high, requiring support from the FCC's Universal Service Fund to facilitate network improvements and keep rates reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.

In return for the support that is being approved, carriers must maintain, improve, and expand broadband throughout their service areas, including providing service of at least 25 Megabits per second downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

The FCC said providers will be held accountable through an enforceable schedule for delivering improved and expanded service, with the first interim deployment obligation occurring in 2022.

“Our action will help close the digital divide and is a win-win for rural Americans and taxpayers, including 6,888 homes and small businesses in Arkansas,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Carriers get the predictable support they need to deliver broadband to their customers in these high-cost rural areas. And taxpayers, who fund this support through a fee on their phone bills, are getting more bang for their buck.”

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