The $102M Arkansas Healthcare, Higher Education, Public Safety, & Research Integrated Broadband Initiative funded through the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program is now named Arkansas e-Link. This project will upgrade, expand, and integrate fragmented, limited bandwidth broadband networks by offering 474 community anchor institutions substantial broadband upgrades, added broadband equipment and connectivity to a fiber backbone to meet broadband needs in healthcare, higher education, public safety, and research in unserved, underserved, and economically distressed areas in Arkansas.
In the first year of funding, UAMS CDH reached a major milestone through the approval of its Environmental Assessment, and the proposed project was found to have no significant impact on the environment, allowing engineers to begin the implementation of the network design. Completing the Environmental Assessment also allows Arkansas e-Link to proceed in acquiring grant-funded equipment and bandwidth, the primary deliverables of the grant-funded initiative. These resources will be installed at network sites over the next two years.
UAMS CDH also hired 12 professionals to manage, plan, and implement Arkansas e-Link. The grant-funded staff have spent the first year of the program’s implementation preparing each of the network sites for broadband connections and equipment. In doing this, they have begun soliciting and choosing vendors, fiber routes, and interactive video equipment through publically disseminated requests for proposals. The Arkansas e-Link staff have begun contacting the sties for assessment and will soon visit sites to prepare each facility for upgraded broadband capable of telemedicine activities by providing project introduction materials, including a slideshow, fact sheet, and a memoranda of agreement for equipment and broadband circuits. Another major outlet of information to the public and participating partners is the Arkansas e-Link website, which went live in October 2010.
Over the next fiscal year, program managers will collaboratively work with vendors, end-users, and UAMS Network Management to establish or upgrade broadband in preparation for installation of interactive video equipment. Once the equipment is installed, the program managers will build relationships with end-users to encourage utilization of the interactive video equipment by making site visits, providing additional training, and offering application recommendations. Further goals of the next year include:
- Deploying 290 public access computers
- Disseminating first batch of interactive video equipment
- Collecting and recording of all memorandum of agreement
- Coordinating with the South Central Telehealth Resource Center to train representatives at sites
- Completing assessment of sites’ telehealth and distance learning needs
- Begin providing broadband for telehealth purposes