Heartland Forward Applauds Milestone on Affordable Connectivity Program

Today, the Biden administration announced that since the May launch of their comprehensive, “all of government” effort to enroll Americans in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), one million new households have signed up to access affordable home internet. The ACP provides eligible households up to $30 a month off their internet bills, and a one-time $100 discount for a connected device.

In response, Angie Cooper, chief program officer for Heartland Forward, a think-and-do tank that advocates on behalf of high-speed internet access in the heartland, released the following statement:

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is a crucial part of Heartland Forward’s efforts to close the digital divide in the heartland and across the nation, and we are thrilled that one million new households have now enrolled. Much work still needs to be done to ensure all families, students and heartland residents have access to affordable, high-speed internet. Heartland Forward looks forward to continuing our work with local communities and policymakers across the heartland to bring collective resources to support efforts to bridge gaps that prevent states and municipalities from realizing their goals of universal connectivity. This isn’t a one-size fits all approach – it  requires thinking outside of the box, building strategic partnerships and taking meaningful action.”

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New Coalition Launches to Help Close Arkansas’ Digital Divide

BENTONVILLE, Ark (July 14 2022)

The Arkansas Connectivity Coalition’s first effort is Accelerate Arkansas, a 14-week intensive broadband

Today, a group of more than 15 local organizations committed to expanding internet access announced the formation of the Arkansas Connectivity Coalition. This is a group created to help support the state and local communities plan and secure the federal dollars needed to expand access and ensure high-speed internet is more accessible and affordable across the state. Convened by Heartland Forward, the coalition is made up of nonprofits, advocacy organizations, thought leaders and philanthropies, including the Arkansas Black Mayors Association, Arkansas Community Foundation, Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas Impact Philanthropy, Communities Unlimited, Diamond State Networks, Forward Arkansas, Holman Strategies, Runway Group, University of Arkansas-Department of Communication, Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Winrock International and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. 

The first major effort of the Coalition is the launch of Accelerate Arkansas, a planning and capacity building program developed with the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. This organization will help Arkansas communities learn how to plan and use the historic broadband infrastructure funding for community-driven broadband expansion. The inaugural pilot cohort of the program includes Cleveland County, Elaine, Hughes, West Memphis and Keo, and will begin on July 14, 2022.

“Having access to a high-speed, reliable internet service is crucial for working, learning and living in the 21st century, but too many families across Arkansas simply don’t have the connectivity they need,” said Angie Cooper, chief program officer of Heartland Forward. “The Arkansas Connectivity Coalition shares a common purpose of working to close the digital divide and ensure Arkansas is building a future that leverages high-speed internet to improve economic opportunity, education and health outcomes and effective delivery of services. We are proud to launch Accelerate Arkansas as our first initiative, a program that has already proven successful in other parts of the heartland–including the states of Illinois and Ohio–in preparing communities to use incoming funding efficiently and effectively to get people connected.”

“Reliable high-speed internet is crucial to the economic vitality of our state,” said Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. “From schoolchildren connecting to lesson plans to businesses and industries connecting to get the job done, connectivity is no longer a luxury. For the past eight years, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that Arkansans have the skills necessary to compete – and win – in the global economy, and the Arkansas Connectivity Coalition is the latest piece of the puzzle to make that goal a reality. We are grateful to the public, private and non-profit stakeholders around the state who are working together to support efforts to ensure all Arkansans are playing on an equal technology field.”

Accelerate Arkansas will provide local leadership teams with expert support in developing broadband visions and implementation plans for their communities as new infrastructure dollars are made available through the historic passage of the federal infrastructure program as well as by the state. The opportunity is made possible through a collaboration between the University of Arkansas, which will coordinate survey research and oversee administrative support, and a series of organizations across the state that will provide technical support to cohort teams. These organizations include: Communities Unlimited, Winrock International, the Arkansas Black Mayors Association and Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The Accelerate program is being funded by the Arkansas Community Foundation, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, Diamond State Networks, Forward Arkansas, Heartland Forward and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Arkansas communities stand to receive a significant amount of funding for broadband infrastructure enhancement, thanks to the recent passage of the $1 trillion federal infrastructure plan. Community planning support offered through initiatives like Accelerate Arkansas will help even the playing field so that more cities and counties – regardless of size or staffing – can prepare to submit for capital dollars to help transform broadband in their communities.

The program works to prepare communities for establishing and implementing a full-scale broadband connectivity vision. Through over 30 hours of expert counsel provided by the Benton Institute, the program offers structured engagement for communities to identify broadband goals, gather data, understand available funding options and target capital dollars to support implementation.

“We are honored to collaborate with the Arkansas Connectivity Coalition and Heartland Forward to work with unserved and underserved communities in a process modeled after a successful program designed by the Blandin Foundation for Minnesota,” said Adrianne B. Furniss, Executive Director of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

CONTACT

NAME: Lara Sisselman, lara@cstrategies.com

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About the Arkansas Connectivity Coalition:

The Arkansas Connectivity Coalition is a group of more than 15 organizations committed to making high-speed internet more accessible and affordable in Arkansas. The Coalition is made up of nonprofits, advocacy organizations, thought leaders and philanthropies that recognize access to broadband is essential for full participation in the 21st century: the future of the state’s healthcare, education and economic infrastructure all relies on Arkansans having reliable internet service. 

About Heartland Forward:

Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes. Heartland Forward conducts independent, data-driven research and programs to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit https://heartlandforward.org/.

Second cohort of Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Program selected

Heartland Forward and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society today announced the six communities selected to participate in the second cohort of the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program, which is administered in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The newest cohort of participants include: Bond County, Kankakee County/Pembroke CDC, Kaskaskia College area, Livingston County, Ogle County and Peoria/Woodford Counties.

Building on the success of the first cohort, which included the City of Springfield, Jackson County, Knox County, Mercer County, Whiteside County and the Village of Elsah, the second cohort will participate in a 14-week intensive training program to help leaders from participating communities develop broadband plans to address their unique local needs. The training will position them to effectively leverage newly available state and federal broadband infrastructure funding.

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Rural LISC Partners With Heartland Forward To Map Uptake In Emergency Broadband Benefit, Help Target Outreach For New Federal Affordable Connectivity Program In 2022

Today, Rural LISC launched a new tool developed in collaboration with Heartland Forward that maps 2021 enrollment in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program and helps target enrollment efforts for the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that replaced EBB at year’s end. The mapping tool, built by Liz Lima, a current American Connection Corps Fellow sponsored by Heartland Forward, is designed to aid Rural LISC digital navigators and other partner organizations in identifying the communities that can benefit most from outreach and awareness of the new federal discount on internet service for low-income households.

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Heartland Forward and League of United Latin American Citizens Announce Partnership to Increase Latino Enrollment in Emergency Broadband Benefit [English/Spanish]

Heartland Forward and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) announced a new partnership to lead on-the-ground advocacy and enrollment efforts to help connect Latino households to affordable internet through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program. The collaboration includes $50,000 in funding from Heartland Forward for LULAC to distribute on-the-ground outreach and enrollment activities to its local councils across the heartland states.

Hoy, Heartland Forward y la Liga de Ciudadanos Latinoamericanos Unidos (LULAC) anunciaron una nueva colaboración para liderar los esfuerzos en promover e inscribir a hogares hispanos para servicios de Internet a través del Programa de Beneficios de Banda Ancha de Emergencia (EBB, por sus siglas en inglés) de la Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones (FCCc, por sus siglas en inglés). La colaboración incluye una contribución de $50,000 de Heartland Forward para que LULAC lo distribuya a sus consejos locales en los estados del llamado “heartland” o corazón del país, para actividades de promoción e inscripción.

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