City of Stuttgart applies for grant to bring high-speed internet into city

National News

STUTTGART, Ark. – The City of Stuttgart is one step closer to bringing high-speed internet into the community. Like many rural towns, Stuttgart has struggled with connection issues for years. In Tuesday’s City Council meeting they voted to partner with Ritter Communications and apply for a grant through Arkansas Rural Connect and the CARES Act.

Spinning wheels and no connection is a common problem in this rural community.

“We have to have high-speed internet and we don’t have it. It’s killing us economically right now,” Stuttgart Economic Development Coordinator David Leech said.

Leech said slow internet deters businesses from making this town their home.

“We had a housing developer come out of Little Rock. We had the land all taken care of and all and they were getting ready to start and they checked on our internet service and said ‘look we can’t sell houses with slow internet,'” Leech said.

For those business owners already there, like David Jacobs, they struggle on a day to day basis.

“It’s been an availability issue, it’s been a speed issue, it’s been a reliability issue. Internet is as vital of a utility as you find with water, electricity, or anything else you need just to live,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs is a real estate appraiser and not only does the poor connection affect his listings but also his tenants.

“When you have your new tenant call in and they say ‘I’d like to have new internet service’ and they tell you ‘well we’re sorry we can’t help you right now because we’re out of circuits’ that’s a problem,” Jacobs said.

There are three providers in the city but none establish a strong signal.

“The main cable and internet the fiber optic runs from Little Rock to Memphis right down the interstate. Well see we’re 21 miles from the interstate,” Leech said.

Now, Leech has found a company, Ritter Communications, that is willing to bring the fiber optic into the city as long as they are awarded a grant through Arkansas Rural Connect. The city council unanimously approved the application and sent it in.

“I am very proud they have now found a partner that will partner with them to be able to offer this because that has been the restriction that has kept us there before now,” Jacobs said.

Still, there is no timeline for when that application could be approved. Just like the community is waiting for better service, the city is waiting for an answer.

“I have high hopes now let’s see if it delivers,” Jacobs said.

The city submitted its application directly after the city council meeting. They say it is now a waiting game to see if it is awarded.

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