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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A coalition of groups across the state are launching a public awareness campaign to get more Arkansans access to discounted internet thanks to a relatively new pandemic-era program, according to a Monday news release.

Why it matters: More than 1 million Arkansans don't have internet. That's about a third of the state.

What's happening: Arkansans who struggle to afford internet are eligible to apply for the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

  • The program, started last month, gives discounts of up to $50 a month on home internet and up to $100 toward a laptop, computer or tablet.
  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Broadband Office, Bentonville-based nonprofit Heartland Forward, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, and the Arkansas State Library, among others, are trying to get the word out to low-income Arkansans through ads and community outreach.

Yes, but: The $3.2 billion program is temporary and will end when money runs out or six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.

What they're saying:

"The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how many Arkansans still lack internet access, and how critical it is to invest in closing the digital divide in our state."
Gov. Hutchinson in a news release

Details: One member of a household must meet at least one of the following criteria to be eligible:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC's Lifeline program
  • Receives free or reduced-price school lunch or breakfast
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program

Of note: Heartland Forward is promoting the program as part of its three-year Connecting the Heartland initiative focused on ensuring families and businesses have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.

Go deeper

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.

California's largest wildfire razes homes as 88 huge blazes burn in U.S.

Firefighters on the scene as dozens of homes burn during the Dixie Fire in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Flames from California's biggest wildfire were engulfing homes in the state's north overnight — one of 88 large blazes raging in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Dixie Fire, which erupted July 14 near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, was tearing through the community of Indian Falls in the neighboring Plumas County, per AP.