More Than $29M Invested in Rural Oklahoma Broadband
Mike Seals - August 6, 2020 10:50 pm
Cheyenne, OK – U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (OK-03), U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R- Okla.), Governor Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur today applauded the Trump Administration announcement that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $29 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Oklahoma. This investment is part of the $100 million in grant funding made available for the ReConnect Pilot Program through the CARES Act.
“As our country continues to fight COVID-19, the need for rural broadband has never been more apparent. Access to broadband, and programs like ReConnect, are crucial to our communities, especially as schools continue to discuss safe ways to reopen and navigate remote learning,” said Congressman Frank Lucas. “I thank Secretary Perdue and the Trump Administration for their continued investment in Oklahoma’s rural broadband- as today’s investment will bring service to more than 5,000 Oklahomans, more than 700 family farms, and nearly 50 Main Street businesses in the heart of Oklahoma’s Third District. From Main Street to the classroom to the doctor’s office, broadband will continue to play a role in our daily lives, and I look forward to working with Sen. Inhofe, Governor Stitt, and Secretary Arthur to ensure more Oklahomans have access to this critical infrastructure.”
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times, and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”
“All of Oklahoma is a top priority for the Trump Administration and Secretary Perdue—proven yet again by the investment of more than $29 million today,” said Inhofe. “High speed internet is vital for rural communities as it promotes innovation in agriculture and access to health services and education. All Americans deserve 21st century broadband infrastructure to access our 21st century economy. I look forward to seeing the expansion of broadband in rural areas and the growth that it will provide to Oklahoma’s overall economy.”
“COVID-19 has emphasized the important role a robust broadband infrastructure plays in the success of our state, especially for our rural communities” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “High speed internet increases access to a quality education, affordable healthcare, enhanced agriculture and expanded economic opportunity. While we have made significant progress over the past year, moving from 47th to 26th in broadband access, there is still work to be done. I thank President Trump and Secretary Purdue for their investment in our rural broadband system and their commitment to help us in our vision to improve connectivity for all 4 million Oklahomans.”
“Now more than ever, it is all too evident that access to broadband is a necessity for the continued advancement of rural Oklahoma and our agriculture industries,” said Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture. “The impact of $29 million in broadband service will be instrumental in ensuring Oklahoman’s have access to equal opportunities provided through the advancement of technologies – especially to those in production agriculture. We applaud the Trump Administration for their recognition of this important issue and for their investment in the lives of rural citizens of our state.”
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America.
In rural Oklahoma, Pioneer Telephone Cooperative will use a $24.2 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 4,480 people, 595 farms, 44 businesses and two fire stations to high-speed broadband internet in Blaine, Dewey, Ellis and Kingfisher counties.
Also, in rural Oklahoma, Cimarron Telephone Company will use a $5.4 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 746 people, 107 farms and three businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Pawnee and Osage counties.
Over the past 20 years the United States has been a global leader in digital innovation and investment. The U.S. telecommunications industry has invested over $1.7 trillion to deploy and modernize broadband internet services. However, there still remains a significant digital divide in rural America.
According to data compiled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 22 percent of rural Americans do not have access to fixed broadband services with minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and minimum upload speeds of 3 Mbps at home.
On April 25, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13790 which established an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The purpose and function of the Task Force is to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technical innovation, energy security, and quality of life in rural America.
On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 which included a provision that established a new broadband loan and grant pilot program, now called the Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program)—a direct recommendation from the task force. This action has the potential to generate private sector investment to deploy broadband infrastructure to provide high-speed internet e-Connectivity to as many rural premises as possible, including homes, community facilities for healthcare and public safety, schools, libraries, farms, ranches, factories and other production sites.
To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.