Rural access expands to broadband internet

Abbi Avers 

Contributing Writer

Rural Oklahomans are closer to receiving high-speed internet after the Oklahoma Broadband Governing Board authorized broadband infrastructure expansion projects to take place in 57 counties. 

Almost 85 percent of Oklahomans currently have access to broadband services, but with the new $374 million in grant funds, more than 55,000 Oklahoma homes and businesses will soon add to that percentage. The Oklahoma Broadband Director of Communications & Media Relations Tim Allen says, “The state government has never awarded any grants for expanding high speed internet. This is a huge milestone for Oklahoma.”

For rural Oklahoma residents like Kayla Miller, a realtor located in a remote town, access to reliable broadband internet had long been a distant dream. “In the past, slow internet speeds and frequent outages were the norm,” Miller recounted. “Running my real estate business online was consistently challenging and I often felt like I was operating at a disadvantage compared to realtors in more urban areas.”

With the recent expansion announcement, residents are ready to experience this new online era. “This is a game-changer for us,” remarked Miller. “Having fast, reliable internet opens up a world of opportunities for businesses like mine and I’m very excited for the opportunities that broadband will bring to my children’s education. 

Miller isn’t alone in her opinions, with many residents across rural Oklahoma ready for the expansion to come their way. Beyond the convenience of streaming entertainment or browsing social media, broadband expansion represents a lifeline to essential services and opportunities previously out of reach, more specifically in the area of education. 

Bailey Ramsey, a current college student, shared her experience of living in a rural area with limited internet access. Reflecting on her high school years, Bailey described the challenges she faced due to the lack of reliable broadband options.

“When I was in high school, I lived in the middle of nowhere, a couple of miles down a dirt road,” Ramsey said. “The only options for internet were very expensive for extremely slow speeds.”

Ramsey went on to explain the impact of inadequate internet access when the COVID-19 pandemic forced her schoolwork to transition to virtual platforms. “When COVID-19 hit and my schoolwork turned virtual, it was not only a struggle for me, but for my whole community as well,” she said.

With her town consisting of approximately 600 people, Ramsey highlighted the difficulty of obtaining broadband access in rural areas. “My town has about 600 people in it so we weren’t 

really the priority for Broadband,” she explained. Ramsey emphasized the challenges of adapting to the new normal of virtual learning without reliable internet access. “It was really hard to adapt to our new norm,” she concluded.

Regarding the affordability aspect of broadband access, Tim Allen has an answer for those concerned about financial barriers. “Fortunately, there are grant requirements and among those are that affordable plans would be offered to the costumers, this really is a historic moment for Oklahoma”

State leaders are confident that 95 percent of Oklahomans will have access to high-speed internet by 2028. 

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