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The Southwest Arkansas Telephone Cooperative will be getting $10.4 million in federal loan funds that will be used to improve internet communication speed in this region.

The loan, provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be used to improve parts of this company's network. The improvements will allow for upgraded voice and video services as well as increase internet speeds of up to one gigabit per second — the equivalent of downloading a 500 megabyte video in 4 seconds.

According to the agency, the loan will be used to upgrade parts of the Arkansas company's network in Fouke and Garland City in Miller County.

Garland City Mayor Tyshekka Antwine couldn't be reached for comment as of late Saturday afternoon, but Fouke Mayor Terry Purvis said the financial support promises to be a sure plus for the Southwest Arkansas area.

"If you look at what has already been started in the Texarkana area, you'll see that at least 90 to 95% of the homes in Fouke are now already hooked with the fiber optic capacity needed," he said. "This will be a great internet speed enhancement to this area."

Beyond residential usage, Purvis added that faster broadband internet communication service to rural areas will also help make these areas much more inviting to corporate, industrial and manufacturing plant location as well as relocation.

"I see this as a definite plus for this whole region," he said.

The loan is one of six totaling $86.7 million that was provided by the USDA to take faster broadband speeds to rural areas of the country. The USDA has invested more than $744 million on internet infrastructure upgrades since October. This latest round of loans has included 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 and an office in Texarkana. This base includes Texarkana, Hope, Mineral Springs, Emerson, McCaskill, Fulton, Fouke, Garland City, Ozan and Doddridge as well as Bloomberg, Texas.

In addition to fiber broadband, the SWAT Cooperative offers DSL and fixed wireless internet service, according to its website.

(Nathan Owens of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Greg Bischof of the Texarkana Gazette contributed to this report.)

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