Sparklight Biz works to bridge 'digital divide' in Arizona

July 21, 2020
With funding from 3 agencies, Sparklight Business is extending its fiber network from Show Low, AZ in order to provide high-speed internet to communities across Gila County.

Sparklight Business on July 15 announced is working to bridge the digital divide in Gila County, Arizona with a $29 million expansion project that will improve high-speed internet access for schools, libraries and businesses throughout the county.

According to a press statement, with funding from three agencies, Sparklight Business is extending its fiber network from Show Low, Arizona in order to provide high-speed internet to communities across Gila County, including Payson, Heber-Overgaard and Star Valley. At more than 200 route miles and nearly 29,000 fiber miles, the work represents s one of the largest, single-fiber construction projects Sparklight has executed.

“We have witnessed firsthand just how critical a reliable and robust connection to the internet has become during the COVID-19 pandemic and we are committed to ensuring schools and businesses have the access they need by extending our network to these locations,” commented Chris Boone, vice president of business services for Sparklight. “We thank the multiple partners and agencies that have helped us make this extensive and necessary project a reality and are excited to see the benefit it brings to these rural communities.”

Details of the announced expansion projects currently underway include the following:

  • Through a $2 million grant from the MHA Foundation, Sparklight Business is building out its fiber backbone to extend from Show Low into Payson and Star Valley. This build is approximately 80 miles in length.
  • A $1 million grant from the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) will allow Sparklight Business to build an all-fiber network to reach more than 600 commercial customers in Payson and Star Valley. Utilizing an all-fiber ePON technology capable of 5 Gigabit symmetrical speeds, the network will offer the fastest internet speeds in the area and the ability to handle the needs of small and medium enterprise customers – now and in the future.
  • With $1.9 million in funding from Arizona state matching grants and an additional $17.5 million for construction from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) eRate program, Sparklight Business will be able to provide high-speed internet service to 21 sites throughout Gila County, including libraries as well as public, charter and private schools.

Jacque Sanders, County Librarian with the Gila County Library District said community members rely on libraries for internet to perform a variety of tasks, which can include filling out job applications, forms related to benefits and more. With library doors currently closed, she said there has been an increase in residents accessing WiFi from library parking lots in order to perform these critical tasks.

“I have one library on a T1 line because that’s all that we have available,” Sanders said. “We look forward to having the upgraded service that Sparklight Business will be able to deliver through the eRate grant. Community access to reliable internet is more important now than ever.”

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