Oklahoma phone companies part of $700 million in latest broadband grants


Three Oklahoma telephone companies were among those getting part of nearly $700 million in USDA grants announced Monday for the expansion of broadband service to rural areas of the nation.

The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma received $24.9 million to serve the Pawnee Nation Tribal statistical Areas and what are considered to be socially vulnerable communities in Pawnee and Payne Counties.

A $24.9 million grant was awarded Oklahoma Western Telephone Company to serve the Choctaw Tribal statistical area and communities in Atoka, Latimer, Le Flore, Pittsburg and Pushmataha Counties.

The Cimarron Telephone Company received a grant of $8.8 million and a loan of $8.8 million to serve the Muscogee Creek tribal area.

USDA Secrtary Tom Vilsack announced the grants on Monday, saying they would be used to connect thousands of rural residents, farmers and business owners in 22 states and the Marshall Islands to reliable and affordable high-speed internet throuigh the ReConnect Program, funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Keeping the people of rural America connected with reliable, high-speed internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country and creates good-paying jobs along the way,” Secretary Vilsack said. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are connecting rural communities to a global marketplace. These investments will support economic growth and prosperity for generations to come.”

This program is uniquely designed to fund the most difficult high-speed internet projects in the nation, which are the most rural, remote and unserved communities.

The  high-speed internet investments are part of the fourth funding round of the ReConnect Program. Many residents and businesses in rural areas would not have high-speed internet service without the ReConnect Program, as the program is a key part of the Administration’s Internet for All initiative to connect everyone in America to high-speed internet by 2030.

The announcement includes $667 million in USDA investments in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the Marshall Islands.

Monday’s announcement includes several investments that will benefit people living in Rural Partners Network (RPN) communities. RPN works with hundreds of federal, state and local partners to address specific needs in rural communities that have long struggled to access government programs and funding. RPN helps these communities carry out locally driven plans to create jobs, build infrastructure and support economic growth and stability.

full list of projects from the announcement is available online.