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Broadband Projects Across Oklahoma Net New Funding

Four companies in the state received more than $6.5 million in grants recently from the Oklahoma Broadband Governing Board, which is distributing the money to expand high-speed Internet access there.

Closeup of yellow broadband cables with blue plugs plugged into a board.
(TNS) — Four companies received more than $6.5 million in grants recently from the Oklahoma Broadband Governing Board to expand high-speed internet access in Northwest Oklahoma.

The grants were announced Thursday by the Oklahoma Broadband Office. They were among $374 million in grants awarded statewide for broadband infrastructure expansion projects in 57 counties. A total of 142 projects were approved, according to OBO in a news release, and will affect 55,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma. In addition, another $90 million in matching funds were provided by 31 internet service providers that submitted proposals that were approved.

The state Legislature designated ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to create and administer the broadband investment grant program.

Projects approved in Northwest Oklahoma were:

—AT&T Services Inc., on behalf of its affiliate Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., $1,490,741 in Alfalfa County for fiber optic.

—KanOkla Telephone Association, $1,150,747.60 in Alfalfa County for fiber.

—Chisholm Broadband, $1,113,000 in Grant County for fixed wireless.

—KanOkla Telephone, $1,692,841.78 in Grant County for fiber.

—Resound Networks, $176,390 in Major County for fixed wireless.

—Chisholm Broadband, $258,000 in Major County for fixed wireless.

Tim Allen, OBO director of communications and media relations, said two major players in internet service in Northwest Oklahoma did not participate in the grant program.

"Pioneer Telephone, which has a large presence in northwestern Oklahoma, did not participate in the competitive process for ARPA SLFRF (State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund) grants," he said. "This is because the company is already participating in another federal grant program not administered by our office called Enhanced A-CAM, Enhanced Connect America Model. It is administered by the Federal Communications Commission."

The Enhanced A-CAM program also helps get fiber optic broadband service to rural areas, he said.

In addition, Panhandle Telephone also did not participate in ARPA SLFRF. Panhandle has been expanding fiber optic internet service for many years, Allen said.

There will be two more broadband infrastructure grant programs to be administered by OBO, Allen said.

"The ARPA Capital Projects Fund will award some $159 million in grants," he said, "and the BEAD program grant program will be for $797.4 million. Both will involve a competitive process with internet service providers."

"Governor Stitt and the Legislature's vision to make broadband service available statewide is clearly taking root," said Jim Meek, Oklahoma Broadband Governing Board chair, in a news release. "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 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.

© 2024 the Enid News & Eagle (Enid, Okla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.