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story.lead_photo.caption Percentage of people without broadband access

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas' governor is asking lawmakers to approve $25 million for a new state grant program aimed at increasing access to high-speed internet in rural areas.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday announced the creation of the new Arkansas Rural Connect program, which will provide grants to qualifying communities with at least 500 people to deploy high-speed broadband to its residents. Hutchinson announced the program at a meeting of the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association in Rogers.

Hutchinson says he'll ask the Legislative Council to approve $5.7 million for the program this year, and the remainder will need to be appropriated by lawmakers in next year's legislative session.

Hutchinson in May released a plan to expand rural access to high-speed broadband by 2022.

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