The USDA’s decision to invest more than$29 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas of Oklahoma has drawn applause from Oklahoma leaders. It is also a boost for two rural telephone companies.
Rep. Frank Lucas (OK-03), U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, Governor Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur hailed the investment that is part of the $100 million in grant funding made available for the ReConnect Pilot Program under the CARES Act.
This investment is part of the $100 million in grant funding made available for the ReConnect Pilot Program through the CARES Act.
In rural Oklahoma, Pioneer Telephone Cooperative will use a $24.2 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 4,480 people, 595 farms, 44 businesses and two fire stations to high-speed broadband internet in Blaine, Dewey, Ellis and Kingfisher counties.
Also, in rural Oklahoma, Cimarron Telephone Company will use a $5.4 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 746 people, 107 farms and three businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Pawnee and Osage counties.
“As our country continues to fight COVID-19, the need for rural broadband has never been more apparent. Access to broadband, and programs like ReConnect, are crucial to our communities, especially as schools continue to discuss safe ways to reopen and navigate remote learning,” said Congressman Frank Lucas. “I thank Secretary Perdue and the Trump Administration for their continued investment in Oklahoma’s rural broadband- as today’s investment will bring service to more than 5,000 Oklahomans, more than 700 family farms, and nearly 50 Main Street businesses in the heart of Oklahoma’s Third District.”
“All of Oklahoma is a top priority for the Trump Administration and Secretary Perdue—proven yet again by the investment of more than $29 million today,” said Sen. Inhofe. “High speed internet is vital for rural communities as it promotes innovation in agriculture and access to health services and education. All Americans deserve 21st century broadband infrastructure to access our 21st century economy.”
“COVID-19 has emphasized the important role a robust broadband infrastructure plays in the success of our state, especially for our rural communities” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “High speed internet increases access to a quality education, affordable healthcare, enhanced agriculture and expanded economic opportunity. While we have made significant progress over the past year, moving from 47th to 26th in broadband access, there is still work to be done. I thank President Trump and Secretary Purdue for their investment in our rural broadband system and their commitment to help us in our vision to improve connectivity for all 4 million Oklahomans.”
“Now more than ever, it is all too evident that access to broadband is a necessity for the continued advancement of rural Oklahoma and our agriculture industries,” said Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture. “The impact of $29 million in broadband service will be instrumental in ensuring Oklahoman’s have access to equal opportunities provided through the advancement of technologies – especially to those in production agriculture.”
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America.
Over the past 20 years the United States has been a global leader in digital innovation and investment. The U.S. telecommunications industry has invested over $1.7 trillion to deploy and modernize broadband internet services. However, there still remains a significant digital divide in rural America.
According to data compiled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 22 percent of rural Americans do not have access to fixed broadband services with minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and minimum upload speeds of 3 Mbps at home.