My Pulse News

Mena, Arkansas, News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Judge urges residents to take the broadband challenge process

The Polk County Broadband Initiative (PCBI) met Wednesday, April 3. They discussed the challenge process that concludes on April 19. The process allows the public to challenge whether an individual address is considered “served” with quality internet, or not.

All census blocks in Polk County that are considered “unserved” or “underserved” will be eligible for BEAD funding to build out quality internet coverage, in Polk County. Quality internet coverage is defined as 100mbps download x 20mbps upload.

Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison said, “This challenge process, although I don’t think there is much to challenge. If you tear that map down that we have posted online and look at it. If you clear the map of its filters and you really get to see what it is they’re actually saying is served, I don’t have a big disagreement with that.

“We will get BEAD funding for areas that are either not served or are under-served,” Ellison said. Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) is the mapping challenge process he spoke about. “The areas that are funded, which is way more than what we were led to believe… there was a reverse auction. What they did on another type of funding two years ago and that’s where all of the green dots come from [on the challenge map].”

The previous process refers to the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) that was created to overhaul federal universal service in telecommunications. To put it succinctly, the reverse auction was a challenge to see which contractors could implement and provide service at the lowest bid that met a set of standards.

Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative (SWREA) owns Four States Fiber. Ellison said they were the company that got the contract on all of the RDOF funding in our area.
“When you first look at it, you think, ‘That RDOF covers a lot of our county and in the rural areas, they’re running a lot of [fiber] a lot of miles for very few customers. You think that’s great. It’s not.

“The negative to that is the RDOF funding — the completion of that doesn’t have to be until the end of 2028, so that’s the negative.

“But we got a verbal out of them — nothing formal — they wound up in the first of the BEAD funding last year of getting half of Montgomery County.”

Once the challenge deadline has passed on April 19, a 30-day rebuttal, then a 30-day adjudication puts Polk County down somewhere in August. Then the bidding will begin for BEAD funding to fill in the gaps of areas currently not served or underserved that get added to the challenge process map, which is why it is important for every Polk County resident to take a look and determine their status by inputting their address.

Ellison said, “Hopefully it’s not the end of 2028, it’s more like the end of 2025 or 2026 maybe. I don’t really believe we’re going to have many challenges. The challenges have to come through me. I’m a registered challenger. It doesn’t have to go through me. It can go through John Maddox, or one of the J.P.s, or the elected officials like the mayor.

Ellison prefers any challenge go through him or one of those he mentioned versus through the state email. “If we don’t challenge locally, I really believe they aren’t going to follow up on that because they over inundated. This whole thing is huge when you start looking at the map [of Arkansas]. You’ve got dots on nearly every address in the whole state. That’s a lot.”
The PCBI is asking the public to view the challenge map located on the Arkansas Broadband Office’s website and click on the “dot” that represents your address, if you do not find a “dot” that represents your address, notify the County Judge’s Office at 479-394-8133.

“Additionally, if your ‘dot’ is gray, indicating that you are ‘served,’ but you do not believe you are receiving the speeds that you are paying for, utilize the speed test on the website three times on three different days. By completing all three tests before April 19, will transfer the data to the County Judge and the Arkansas Broadband Office to submit a challenge to the map.
“We just need good quality broadband service and I want coverage across the whole county for economic development reasons and quality of life reasons.”

On Facebook, search for “Polk County Judge Office/County Road, Mena, Arkansas.” There you will find Judge Ellison’s page and should be able to find the map fairly easily. It only take a few seconds to check and determine how you should proceed from there, or if you need to do anything else assuming you’re address is already one of those “served.”


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