From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Government agencies were largely responsible for bringing electric power to rural America.
The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Administration were both created by the federal government in the 1930s. The REA made loans with generous terms to local power authorities, to farming cooperatives and to cities and towns.
Telephone service in rural areas was also achieved through government assistance.
Today, rural Arkansas faces the challenge of installing broadband Internet service, and state government is helping with the financing.
In isolated areas, the expense of laying fiber-optic cables and stringing transmission lines makes it impossible for private companies to recover their costs.
Earlier this year, the legislature approved spending $25 million to help offset some of those costs. The goal is to make the Internet available in all communities with at least 500 people.
However, $25 million is not enough to cover the entire state. One estimate is that it will help about 8,000 people.
That means many areas of the state are not getting government help with broadband access, and residents of those areas have let their legislators know of their frustrations.
In coming years, the state will likely provide more financial help, as the budget allows. There is widespread agreement that in rural areas, Internet access is important for economic development, just as electric power and telephone service were necessary in the 1930s.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.