OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma will spend roughly $1 billion over the next five years to improve internet access the state, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday.
The state will devote a mix of local and federal funds to ensure 95% of residents have access to high-speed internet, he said at a broadband conference.
“Our whole goal is just to provide connectivity, high-speed connectivity to every part of the state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “It’s going to help with health care. It’s going to help in rural Oklahoma and with farmers and our schools.”
The governor was one of the speakers at the Internet for All conference in Oklahoma City put on by the Oklahoma Broadband Office, Oklahoma Municipal League and Association of County Commissioners.
Internet for All is a $45 billion Biden administration initiative aimed at providing affordable, high-speed internet to all Americans. That money, which comes from the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed in 2021, will be allocated based on the amount of unserved or underserved areas in each state.
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Oklahoma could receive about $700 million in federal funds to extend broadband coverage to parts of the state that lack adequate access, said April McClain-Delaney, an official with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Inevitably, some of the funds will be used to incentivize internet providers to extend their coverage to unserved or underserved areas. Ensuring the service is affordable for customers is key, McClain-Delaney said.
The newly formed Oklahoma Broadband Office already received $5 million in federal grants to formulate a plan on how to disperse the large pot of broadband infrastructure funds.
That funding is just the beginning, McClain-Delaney said.
“These planning grants will help jumpstart Oklahoma’s plans to connect everyone,” she said.
State legislators also set aside $387 million in federal pandemic relief funds to expand broadband access.
Mike Fina, chairman of the state’s Broadband Governing Board, said he’s confident the state could allocate that money quickly because those dollars have fewer restrictions than other federal funds.
The Broadband Office is in charge of deploying and overseeing the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal infrastructure funds. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, last year successfully pushed to create the office that is federally funded and will shutter once the state completes its broadband expansion.