As the state embarks on an ambitious plan to achieve near-universal high-speed internet, reversing Oklahoma’s current status as one of the least connected states in the country, keeping internet prices affordable for all Oklahomans will be a critical component, Gov. Kevin State said.
State said this last week, noting that nearly $1.5 billion in federal government money has been used to build new Internet lines. “That’s why it’s really important that we hold all of these service providers accountable, so when all of this is done, it’s more affordable for people.”
Oklahoma ranks 43rd with 87.8% of its population living in an area served by 25 Mbps, the current broadband standard used by the Federal Communications Commission, which tracks connectivity by state. In rural communities, only 71.8% of Oklahoma is served with 25 Mbps, although many believe the standard should be increased to 100 Mbps based on modern internet usage.
Less than 1 in 10 households has reliable broadband service in many rural counties.
Progress toward implementing statewide Internet service was highlighted last week as state and federal communications officials gathered in Oklahoma City for a one-day conference co-hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
April McClain Delaney, deputy assistant secretary for communications at the US Department of Commerce, attended the conference and said the federal government is offering some support programs to help low-income Americans get online.
But it also encouraged states to ensure that companies awarded contracts to use the new fonts included programs for low-income users.
“Individual countries have within their competitiveness programs the ability to put affordability into the bidding process,” said McLean Delaney.
Officials believe there is enough money to complete the broadband plan
While logistical hurdles remain, including potential supply chain issues that could make access to fiber optic cables and other equipment difficult, officials don’t see money as an issue.
“By the time you add it all up…we’re somewhere south of $1.5 billion, and we could build almost an entire country with that,” said Mike Vena, chairman of the Oklahoma Broadband Board.
The state gets the majority of its funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.
The recent conference included the announcement that nearly $6 million has also come to the state through the “Internet for All” federal grant program, which is being used to help expand broadband access.
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The country will first consider building new fiber lines, but at some point, it may have to consider fixed wireless or other systems.
“We’re not going to be able to get fiber to every part of the state,” Vena said.
Any new internet system that is used, Fina said, must meet high-speed standards that are a significant increase from what is considered today’s average.
State officials are in the process of checking internet needs and have asked Oklahoman to use an interactive map to check their internet speeds.
more:Oklahoma leaders say the map’s accuracy is key to getting the dollars needed for the broadband upgrade
“We have reason to believe that some of the information listed on the site, particularly in rural areas, is not accurate,” said Kirk Martin, interim director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Broadband. “In many cases, the map lists a service that is simply not available.”