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Oklahoma receives nearly $800 million from federal program to improve broadband internet access

Todd Johnson
/
Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma has nearly $800 million from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to expand broadband access across the state. It’s part of a $42.5 billion federal program called Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) — a component of the Biden-Harris administration’s “Internet for All” initiative.

“What this announcement means for people across the country is that if you don’t have access to quality, affordable high-speed Internet service now — you will,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a press release.

Federal officials said the funding should bolster the economy by improving access to healthcare, education and remote jobs.

Nearly 1 in 6 Oklahomans don’t have a broadband internet connection, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission. That’s worse than the national average — across the U.S., only about 1 in 8 households lack broadband access.

“One of the things that we realized during COVID was our deficiencies in our internet providers,” said Mike Sanders, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Broadband Office (OBO). “In the state of Oklahoma, we just did not have good high-speed Internet.”

Sanders said the goal is to get at least 95% of Oklahomans connected by the end of those five years.

“This won't happen overnight,” Sanders said. “But the fact is that high-speed Internet is coming.”

Sanders said the Oklahoma Broadband Office is meeting with tribes, state agencies and other stakeholders to discuss priorities. And for the past month and a half, the OBO has been visiting communities around the state to learn about their broadband needs.

“We need to hear from all of those people,” Sanders said. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to have high-speed Internet.”

 A map from the  Oklahoma Broadband Office's 2022 annual report shows barriers to internet access across the state.
Oklahoma Broadband Office
A map from the Oklahoma Broadband Office's 2022 annual report shows barriers to internet access across the state.

Ultimately, the OBO will select projects from a pool of applications from internet service providers.

The OBO will oversee the state’s BEAD money and broadband funds from other federal programs — about $1.2 billion in total. Oklahoma will need to submit a five-year plan on how it will use the BEAD money to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by the end of the year. Once that’s approved, the state will get access to the first 20% of its funding.

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Copyright 2023 KOSU. To see more, visit KOSU.

Graycen Wheeler