The effort to install the infrastructure necessary for high-speed Internet in Ashley County is well under way, and should meet its Dec. 31 deadline.

“It is about 60 percent deployed, and it is still on track for being done by the end of the year,” Crossett Mayor Crystal Marshall said. “We expect it to go live in early January.”

CableSouth Media3 is installing fiber-optic cables to homes in the Crossett city limits. The work is being funded by a $2 million Arkansas Rural Connect broadband grant, which is administered through the Arkansas Department of Commerce.

The money was included as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and was allocated to the Commerce department after the legislature and the state CARES Steering Committee approved it.

Workers on the project are currently stringing the cable where possible, though in a few places they are using boring machines to bury the line.

Marshall said businesses will be able to tap into the fiber service, but the primary customers will be residents.

“It is a really big bonus that they were able to deploy to all the businesses, but I think the nature of the grant was really designed for the citizens,” she said.

Work is also under way to install broadband service in the Hamburg area as well. The Hamburg project is likewise funded by $2 million in CARES money through Arkansas Rural Connect.

“It is exciting to see broadband deployed to rural communities through fiber,” said Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston at the time of the announcement that Hamburg was to receive the grant. 

“This is an investment for the state that benefits future generations.”

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