More than 55,000 Oklahoma homes and businesses are one step closer to receiving high-speed internet service, thanks to recent votes by the Oklahoma Broadband Governing Board to authorize broadband infrastructure expansion projects in 57 counties.
Once all necessary agreements are executed, the 142 approved projects would provide broadband to nearly a quarter of locations without such service today.
In a first of its kind investment in Oklahoma, the Legislature designated ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to create and administer the broadband investment grant program. Grant funds of $374 million will be coupled with more than $90 million in matching funds from 31 internet service providers (ISPs) that submitted approved proposals for service expansion.
“Governor Stitt and the Legislature’s vision to make broadband service available statewide is clearly taking root,” said Jim Meek, Board Chair. “With hundreds of applications and over $5.1 billion in funding requests, I commend the board for its dedication and the broadband office staff for its expertise in bringing to fruition this historic first grant program to bridge the digital divide.”
The board approved projects from a list compiled by the Oklahoma Broadband Office (OBO) after scoring each proposal based on a uniform set of criteria approved by the board.
“The board’s action is a giant step forward to improving quality of life and fostering digital growth throughout Oklahoma, but especially in rural areas,” said Mike Sanders, OBO executive director.
“Access to reliable and affordable broadband will enable better educational and healthcare services, stimulate economic development, and empower Oklahomans to leverage the online technologies of the future, regardless of zip code.”
All projects must be completed before the end of 2026. The final list of funded projects is subject to some modification. If an approved provider chooses to withdraw participation, funding will move to the next project on the list until available funding is obligated with the approval of the board.
Proposed projects were submitted in October and a thorough overbuild prevention contest process was conducted to eliminate awarding grant funds to homes and businesses with existing or planned service, or enforceable commitments. Successfully contested locations were removed from funding consideration and revised proposals were submitted. Finally, proposals were scored using criteria approved by the board.
The next grant program to be administered by the OBO will award some $159 million from the ARPA Capital Projects Fund to expand high-speed internet service in the state.
State leaders comment on historic investment
Governor Kevin Stitt
“I’m proud of the Broadband Office for making this incredible investment.”
“Expanding rural broadband has been a top priority of my administration, and we’ve set an ambitious goal to cover 95% of Oklahoma with high-speed, reliable internet by 2028. From education to business, securing reliable internet in every corner of our state is a necessity. And as we look to expand Oklahoma’s footprint in the AI industry, closing the digital divide has never been more important.”
House Speaker Charles McCall
“This $374 million investment is the first of multiple phases that will provide necessary funding to increase affordable, high-speed broadband accessibility across Oklahoma.
“As our state prepares to attract the jobs of the future, high-speed broadband is a critical component to keep Oklahoma competitive. I want to thank the Oklahoma Broadband Office for the diligent work choosing projects to invest in that will benefit our state and citizens both now and in the future.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat
“Expanding broadband access across the state is essential to help Oklahomans. I am glad the board took the necessary action to bring these projects to fruition. I also appreciate the work of the Legislature who put in the hours and work to prioritize the ARPA projects that made this possible.”
Source: Broadband Office release