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Oklahoma broadband board to select first high-speed internet expansion projects

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Oklahoma broadband board to select first high-speed internet expansion projects

Sep 25, 2023 | 6:28 am ET
By Mindy Ragan Wood
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Oklahoma broadband board to select first high-speed internet expansion projects
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Internet cable wires connect to a network in New York City. A state oversight board has announced millions in grant funds to expand high-speed internet service in Oklahoma. (Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images) (This image cannot be republished unless you have a subscription to Getty.)

State officials are starting the process to award hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to increase access to affordable, high-speed internet.

Internet service providers can now apply for $374 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds through the Oklahoma Broadband Office. The initial funding will be awarded to projects that prioritize the highest number of connections, service speed, affordability and the type of internet connection.

The grant is open through Oct. 9 and while officials couldn’t say when the funds would be awarded, projects have to be completed by Oct. 2, 2026, according to the application criteria.

As many as 728,000 Oklahomans — 18% of the population — do not have access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet Most live in rural areas, said Tim Allen, board spokesperson.

“While some locations will be more expensive than others to receive the build out of the service, the goal is to provide access to affordable and reliable high-speed service throughout the state,” Allen said.

The funding is the first in a series of grants that the state internet expansion oversight board plans to distribute, according to a news release. The office will award $1.3 billion for projects.

“The proposals must not include homes and businesses that already have high-speed internet service availability,” Allen said.

Allen also said fiber optic cable — which is the fastest, but most expensive — will receive “first preference,” but projects installing coaxial cable and “possibly wireless transmission” could also qualify.

The board will also prioritize projects that plan to pay above-average wages, hire local workers and construct internet infrastructure using industry-accepted standards, according to the application criteria.

House Bill 3363, adopted in 2022, requires the Oklahoma Broadband Office to create a plan “to adequately serve 95% of the state’s population” by June 30, 2028. It also required the board to find and administer grants for internet service providers to expand high-speed service.

 

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