Hempstead County, Arkansas: Refusing to get left behind

Hempstead County, Arkansas, is the latest American rural community to take steps toward high speed internet access. The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service has teamed up with Hempstead County for the pilot project of its new program -- Connected Communities for the 21st Century.

According to the university,

Connected Communities was developed specifically to address the needs of rural Arkansas communities, many of which are losing young adult residents to larger, metropolitan areas where there are more diverse career opportunities.

The first step in this effort is a survey of the current state of high speed internet access in the county. Faculty members from the University of Arkansas are working with local high school students to determine what kinds of internet connections county residents currently use. They will then take those findings and show state legislators and internet provider that there is demand for high speed service beyond the current service areas.

The goal for county officials is to spur economic development in their region, by luring businesses into the area and giving talented young people reasons not to move away. They also look forward to the benefits of telemedicine, e-commerce, distance learning, and enhanced communication for emergency workers.

As University of Arkansas professor Mark Peterson put it,

They embark on this because they understand the embracing of technology is going to be a key factor in their success -- the alternative is to be left behind.

Broadband net survey underway (Hope Star)

University of Arkansas -- Connected Communities for the 21st Century