Senate bill focused on broadband access in Arkansas legislative session

Local News

CABOT, Ark. – Candace Tromboli owns the restaurant Chef Candace, she also happens to go by the moniker. She’s been in business in Cabot for nearly a decade and used to be in the heart of the city.

She had roughly 1,000 square feet but then moved to her current location on the outskirts of Cabot and tripled her space. She was met with skepticism that moving further out of town would kill her business off, “My sales have grown more being over here than over there.”

She says the city of Cabot’s broadband reliability and speed are already questionable and being on the edge of the city hasn’t made it any better for her business, “I’m legit every day this week would have to get off Wi-Fi put it back on and get off her back on.”

State Senator Ricky Hill thinks a solution to her problem and any other area that has unreliable broadband coverage is Senate Bill 74.  SB74 would allow for cities or counties issue bonds for the construction of telecommunication infrastructure, with the crux of the idea being broadband.  Cities or counties would then partner up with an internet service provider to then run the service on those lines.

“This is the new electricity they were that were facing right now but just a matter of getting there get it out there for people,” Senator Hill said. 

Senator hill says the goal is to not only get access to more rural areas but even pockets of major cities in the state who may lapse in coverage.  He hopes it opens up competition among providers as well to hopefully drive down prices.  He says this should spurn economic growth as many business, such as Chef Candace, rely heavily on broadband to operate, “”If you have a city and you’re not providing the broadband services that your citizens request or require to come to your area they’re not gonna move there or they’re gonna leave there, it’s pretty simple.”

When Chef Candace had hiccups in her service it brings her business to a halt, “I mean everything we ring up we need that we need that we don’t have a little cash register like you know it’s all run through there and so if I can’t run it then what am I gonna do?!”

SB74 passed out of the Agriculture, Forestry, and Economic Development Committee today with nobody speaking for or against the bill.  It now heads to the full Senate.

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