Broadband funding draws support in Oklahoma legislature

Virtual broadband connections to pass 500 billion by 2025

The recommendation of an Oklahoma legislative committee for funding to address broadband issues in the state drew support from some legislators.

One was Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, who praised the Oklahoma House and Senate Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding for its focus on addressing broadband issues through projects members advanced.

The projects advanced during the joint committee’s meeting will now be considered when the Legislature reconvenes it’s special session to appropriate American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars.

“We have not seen this type of investment in Oklahoma since the 1920’s when we initially built out electricity to rural areas,” Phillips said. “This is a once of a lifetime opportunity that will make Oklahoma a centerpiece for the next ‘Industrial Revolution.’ I have been a champion for broadband issues throughout my time in the Legislature, and I’m proud to see all of that hard work paying off as we invest these ARPA funds in broadband infrastructure and create a brighter future for our state.”

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Broadband projects approved by the joint committee include:

  • Broadband Office Projects – $382.1 million to add to the capital funds amount to grant funds out for buildout of broadband infrastructure.
  • Broadband Office Administration – $500,000 for administrative costs to support the establishment of the office.
  • Broadband Mapping – $2 million to finish out the map that the Department of Commerce has been building over the last several years.
  • Career Tech Broadband – $5 million for career techs to add classes that train a broadband workforce.
  • OSU-IT – $365,068 for a training program at OSUIT to help with broadband workforce training.

“Improving broadband access, especially in rural areas, is essential for progress in our modern world,” said Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, Co-Chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure & Rural Development Working Group.

“From improving our kids’ education to healthcare outcomes and even agriculture, broadband touches every aspect of life. This historic investment will ensure the framework is funded and address any barriers we may face in deploying this project.”

These funds are in addition to $167 million from the Capital Projects Fund that will be going to broadband related expenses. Phillips, who also served as Co-Chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure & Rural Development Working Group said the goal is to provide 95% of all Oklahomans with access to broadband within the next 5 years.

In total, the committee’s approvals, combined with previously approved projects, resulted in recommendation of over 60 projects totaling nearly all of Oklahoma state government’s $1.87 billion share of ARPA funding.

Program areas and specific projects approved by the joint committee will now be placed into appropriations bills for consideration when the Legislature reconvenes the Second Extraordinary Session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature, which was called for the purpose of evaluating ARPA projects advanced by the joint committee and matters of statewide economic development.