Basket of broadband expansion bills to be handled by Oklahoma legislators


The effort to expand broadband service in Oklahoma has the attention of state legislators as they are set to consider at least 10 bills directly related to broadband expansion in the state.

The bills include HB1965 filed by Rep. Carl Newton of Cherokee. His bill would allow existing electric provider easements to also be used by suppliers of broadband service and do so without the threat of trespass charges.

HB2842 by Rep. Trey Caldwell of Lawton is a measure that creates the Oklahoma Broadband Act of 2023.

SB1022 by Sen. Shane Jett of Shawnee would require any private provider who is subject to the federal Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act to update the existing infrastructure in a rural area in which the provider offers services.

SB235 by Sen. Dave Rader of Tulsa creates certain exemptions of state programs put under the jurisdiction of the new Oklahoma Broadband Office. They would include the Corporation Commission, the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund, assets of the Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Authority and assets of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

SB457 by Sen. Brent Howard of Altus is similar to HB1965 in that it allows broadband providers to take advantage of existing electric provider easements and do so without fear of class action lawsuits based on trespass, nuisance or inverse condemnation.

Five of the broadband measures were filed by Sen. Lonnie Paxton of Tuttle.

SB471 would allow the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services to sell certain infrastructure, property and assets of the State Regents for Higher Education and to direct the proceeds to the OneNet Privatization Revolving Fund.

SB472, also by Sen. Paxton, would apply to rural electric cooperatives and allow them to “use existing utility
easements owned, held, or otherwise used by rural electric
cooperatives to expand access to broadband services.”

SB499, another bill by Sen. Paxton, states “State agencies, counties, cities, towns, school districts, career technology districts, institutions of higher education, public trusts, other entities or instrumentalities of local government, and Internet service providers shall, at the request of the Oklahoma Broadband Office, provide information to the Office regarding any matters as specified in this act relevant to the Office’s duties.”

SB848, still another Paxton bill, calls for a sunset of the Broadband office. Under the measure, the office would exist until June 30, 2028 and serve as Oklahoma’s only administrator of the functions, powers and duties under law.

The last bill, SB849, by Sen. Paxton, would require annual reports to be submitted by private broadband providers to the state Broadband office.