PHILLIPS COUNTY, Ark. – Residents of an eastern Arkansas county received news Monday about improving digital access to their homes, schools and farms.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Monday that Phillips County would be receiving a $16,891,348 grant to provide broadband connections for county residents. The grant allows local internet provider Uplink LLC to deploy high-speed internet.

The network upgrade will provide for 1,266 people across 42 businesses, 124 farms and six county educational facilities in the county, the USDA said in its project description. Uplink will also participate in the Federal Communication Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program to keep costs down for high-speed internet users.

The Phillips County grant was part of a $671,197,560 package of grants and loans made nationwide through the USDA ReConnect Loan and Grant Program announced on Monday. The Phillips County grant was one of $493,223,867 in provided grants. 

Monday was the fourth funding round for the ReConnect Program, part of an initiative to provide high-speed internet access throughout the country. Vilsack said this type of infrastructure is important for job creation.

“Keeping the people of rural America connected with reliable, high-speed internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country and creates good-paying jobs along the way,” he said, adding that the funding was part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill passed in 2021.

Earlier beneficiaries of the ReConnect Program in Arkansas include Clinton-based Arkansas Telephone Company which received $11,915,475 in July 2022 after a $4.1 million grant from the program in 2020. Also in 2020 the Mountain View Telephone Company received a $2.9 million grant for Stone County, and Northern Arkansas Telephone Company received $4.7 grant for Marion County.

Those programs are expected to impact over 4,000 Arkansas residents.