BY LEANN DILBECK –
Members of the Joint Committee on Advanced Communications and Information Technology of the Arkansas Legislature heard from AT&T External/Internal Legislative Affairs’ Ricky Cross while in Mena last week, who delivered welcomed news to State Representative Nate Bell and the local community when he reported that upgrades to the fiber optic line that feeds into Mena along Hwy 270/88 were completed in late 2013.
Cross explained that before the upgrades, an outage as far away as Mt. Ida or Mountain Harbor, would disrupt service to the entire Mena area, which also impacts the region’s 911 service. He said Bell continually expressed concerns on behalf of his constituency of this.
Cross said that he was “glad” to now report to the committee that the upgrades completed include a diverse route that, “whereas that fiber becomes damaged, wherever that might be, it will now divert to a different route that comes into Mena and will still give you the services you need, as far as for the Mena area.”
Next, Cross addressed the business communities’ continual requests for more broadband. “It’s a common message AT&T hears wherever we go.” Cross went on to explain that AT&T is concentrating their efforts into an “IP build” which will address customers’ common requests for more speed and bandwidth.
Senator Williams asked Cross to address concerns both Bell and Senator Larry Teague had regarding problems with service to the Mena schools “with Common Core coming on, when massive amounts of students go on-line for testing” and asked what AT&T was doing to address the need. Cross admitted he met with Mena schools regarding those problems “a couple of years ago,” and said he “thought” some bids were made that may include Mena, although he hadn’t seen them, but, “I do believe we could and will, if necessary, provide that to the schools.”
Bell and other local officials continually advocate to improve broadband service to the Mena area, recognizing it as a major requirement to local schools and businesses, but also in recruiting new business and industry to the area.