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$75M to aid upgrade of rural power lines

Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Corp. is receiving a $75 million federal loan to build and improve its power lines.

The loan, approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be used to install 2,073 miles of fiber optic cable as a backbone for smart grid technologies, according to the rural development agency.

State lawmakers supported the USDA's decision to finance the project, saying in a joint statement that "rural broadband connectivity has always been an issue in Arkansas. As digital communications become more important to daily life, every Arkansan should at least have the option to connect to fast, reliable internet," and "these funds will be instrumental in aiding electric companies in improving their broadband infrastructure."

The 23-year term loan is financed through the USDA's Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program.

Arkansas Electric in Little Rock has 17 electric cooperatives that service 74 Arkansas counties and surrounding states.

-- Nathan Owens

$10M U.S. loan goes to internet provider

Southwest Arkansas Telephone Cooperative is receiving a $10.4 million federal loan to increase its internet speeds.

The loan is one of six totaling $86.7 million that was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in efforts to take faster broadband internet to rural America.

According to the agency, the loan will be used to upgrade parts of the Arkansas company's network, offering users in Fouke and Garland improved voice and video services and internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, the same as downloading a 500 megabyte video in 4 seconds.

The USDA has invested more than $744 million on internet infrastructure upgrades since October. With this latest round of loans, it is financing millions to telecommunications companies in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Southwest Arkansas Telephone Cooperative has a subscriber base of 4,612 in Arkansas and Texas.

-- Nathan Owens

State index declines 9.27, ends at 379.60

The Arkansas Index, a price-weighted index that tracks the largest public companies based in the state, closed Wednesday at 379.60, down 9.27.

"Equities sold off Wednesday as investors focused on rising virus cases in multiple states along with reports of possible tariffs by the United States on imports from Europe," said Leon Lants, managing director at Stephens Inc. Energy and industrials sectors led the slide, Lants said.

Shares of Murphy Oil Corp. fell 11.8% and USA Truck Inc. shares fell 6.8%.

Shares of Murphy USA rose 0.14%.

The index was developed by Bloomberg News and the Democrat-Gazette with a base value of 100 as of Dec. 30, 1997.

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