Frequently Asked Questions

What is Arkansas e-Link?

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) applied for $102 million in ARRA broadband economic recovery funds to expand and integrate two existing networks: Arkansas Telehealth Network and Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network (ARE-ON). On August 18, 2010, the National Telecommunications Information Administration within the Department of Commerce announced award funding for the Arkansas Health Care, Higher Education, Public Safety, & Research Integrated Broadband Initiative (now labeled Arkansas e-Link which is a simple depiction of this initiative and allows all partners to clearly maintain their own identity. The award was funded through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Comprehensive Community Infrastructure grant.

What does this mean for Arkansas?

For some Arkansans, this project will literally mean the difference between life and death, but for all Arkansans, this project will mean an improved quality of life through enhanced community resources at their health care, higher education, public safety, and research institutions. The following potential applications and benefits will now be possible through this project at 450+ of Arkansas’ community facilities.

Health Care

– Patients will be able to receive real-time consultation from distant medical specialists through interactive video telemedicine, allowing them to receive needed health care within their hometown medical sites.

– Medical providers will be able to collaborate with distant medical specialists to co-manage complex patients, so their local facility may retain more of their patients, often without need to refer patients to distant hospitals.

– Medical providers will be able to receive and participate in continuing education through interactive video.

– Medical providers will be able to engage in the statewide efforts for electronic health information exchange and the development of a statewide electronic medical record.

– Patients will be able to access home health care through handheld broadband devices at participating sites.

– Patients and medical providers will be able to access research and educational materials available through health care colleges and schools.

Higher Education

– Access fiber-grade connectivity speeds.

– Access distance learning courses and other online educational resources from universities and colleges across Arkansas.

– Will be able to play key roles in collaborative research studies through interactive video.

Public Safety

– Patients will be able to receive in-ambulance interactive video support and vital data assessment with specialists before ever reaching the emergency room at participating sites.

– Partnering facilities will be able to participate and receive alerts from and communicate with the Arkansas Bioterrorism Network and Arkansas Trauma Center to ensure public safety.

Research

– Partnering facilities will be able to utilize broadband connectivity and/or interactive video equipment to communicate within the network to carry out collaborative research projects, recruit patients / study participants, and follow-up on results.

– Seven public libraries will be able to promote participation in consumer health/academic distance education and support groups through public access to interactive video equipment.

What do the acronyms ARRA/BIP/BTOP stand for?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 appropriated $7.2 billion and directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits. The result was funding of the RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). BIP makes loans and grants for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas. BTOP provides grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable broadband adoption projects. Of the $7.2 billion, $4.7 billion was allotted to the NTIA to award grants. The remaining $2.5 billion went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make loans and grants to companies building out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

What will this project do?

This project will integrate isolated community institutions to expand the broadband capabilities and geographic reach of two broadband networks serving Arkansas:

– The Arkansas Telehealth Network (ATOM), —a coalition of community anchor institutions with limited bandwidth and equipment that offer healthcare, higher education, public safety, and research services.

– The Arkansas Research & Education Optical Network (ARE-ON), the state’s only public-owned fiber optic network currently serving four-year universities and oversees 1,400+ miles of fiber backbone and 40 miles of lateral fiber serving 11 four-year universities.

The project will substantially upgrade the Arkansas Telehealth Network (ATN) broadband services and/or equipment and upgrade over 100 new network sites to create a comprehensive statewide network of 450+ community anchor institutions. The project is planned to expand expand the ARE-ON Network’s fiber connectivity to reach all 22 state-supported two-year colleges. The ATN will integrate with ARE-ON by sharing fiber connectivity. Additionally, this project will permit high-speed delivery and transmission of broadband benefits at the 450+ “integrated network” sites. With increased bandwidth and/or equipment in every county in Arkansas at a comprehensive range of community anchor institutions, every resident in Arkansas will be served through the proposed connections. Further, the project intends to enhance the health care and education components of both networks by enabling remote clinical consultations and electronic record exchange, while connecting the networks’ educational partners to state research networks as well as Internet2 and the National Lambda Rail. First responder and other emergency services will be enhanced by the provision of broadband connectivity to ambulance dispatchers, the Arkansas Trauma Communications Center, and the Arkansas Bioterrorism Network. This initiative plans to provide direct connections to approximately 450+ anchor institutions, including one public safety entity, eight libraries, 22 community colleges, 12 other institutions of higher education, 407+ health care facilities, and six government buildings and centers.

What is the UAMS Center for Distance Health?

The Center for Distance Health (CDH) is an innovative center within the college of Medicine that allows the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to respond to the demands for dynamic, contemporary health care.  CDH effectively reduces disparities in health care in Arkansas, while supporting ground breaking research and cutting-edge programs.

Will my hometown facilities receive this type of connectivity and/or equipment?

All 75 Arkansas counties are represented in the project, with some counties containing multiple project sites. Please review the “Partners” page to review the key partners that represent the facilities to receive grant-support broadband upgrades and/or interactive video equipment.

As a partner, what should I expect next?

During phase 1 of the Arkansas e-Link project, these milestones were reached:  completion of the environmental assessment, issuance of the FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact), over 387 site visits to community anchor institutions (CAI) for purposes of collecting Memorandum of Agreement and to conduct baseline assessments of the CAI’s knowledge, use, needs, perception/acceptance and vision of Telehealth.  Program managers subsequently coordinated  installation of 327 interactive video units and 271 public access PCs.

Now that phase 1 is complete, the Arkansas e-Link project team is working to coordinate and install:

  • Aggregation electronics in seven of the nine (9) hubs on the ARE-ON fiber backbone
  • 637 Telemedicine peripherals (DigiCAMs, stethoscopes and routers)
  • 251 leased circuits and routers from each site to the appropriate hub by June 30, 2012

I am not included as a partner, but I would like to participate in network activities. Can I still benefit?

Absolutely. While current grant funding is reserved only for the existing partner sites, future sites can join the integrated network to participate in health care, higher education, public safety, and research activities facilitated through broadband. Moreover, you may be eligible to participate in future grant efforts by joining the integrated network now. If your organization delivers health care, higher education, public safety, or research services to Arkansas, you could be eligible to join. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of joining this network or participating in future grant requests, please contact arkansaselink@uams.edu, labeling your subject line, “Send information to join.” Again, the BTOP grant has been funded for specific, pre-selected sites, but the integrated network invites and encourages new sites to participate in network activities.

Will I have broadband available to my home because of this project?

No. This project only provides for broadband connectivity and/or equipment at 450+ specified community facilities in Arkansas, including hospitals, two-year colleges, and community health centers, among many others. While this grant will not provide broadband to your home, many of the participating sites will provide a public computer available for consumers who wish to take part in health care education, distance learning, and other related activities.

How will this project create jobs?

The middle-mile is the sector of the network that connects last-mile facilities such as telecom company local interconnection points (central offices) with commercial broadband connectivity and with national and global advanced research networks. The design, construction, operation and oversight of the network will create more than 400 jobs.

How many jobs will this project create or save?

The Arkansas e-Link initiative began August 2010. With the advent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a necessity arose to quantify jobs created as a direct result of stimulus money. The federal government created figures for job years, or one job for one year, based on the stimulus money provided. The Council of Economic Advisors determines total job-years for a project by dividing the money requested by $92,136. Sixty-four percent of the total provides the number of direct and indirect job years.

Arkansas e-Link has employed the same method for estimating the job years created, which resulted in a projection of 66 job-years created from direct jobs (based on 25 full-time employees). The first wave of these created jobs was posted on the UAMS web site from the first week of September 2010 to the first week of October 2010.

When will the project begin and be completed?

The Arkansas e-Link initiative began August 1, 2010 and will be completed August 1, 2013.

How will ATOM, ARE-ON and the partners communicate about this project to the community?

This Arkansas e-Link web site is the gateway to all information and announcements regarding the Arkansas e-Link initiative.

 

 

 

 

The project described was made possible by Funding Opportunity number (Regulatory Identification Number) 0660–ZA28 and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number 11.557 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration, BroadbandUSA. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of BroadbandUSA.

For a statement of network management policies, please visit our partners’ sites for the Arkansas Telehealth Oversight & Management (ATOM) Network, whose policy is currently in development, and the Arkansas Research & Education Optical Network (ARE-ON).