Oklahoma, which currently ranks 43rd nationwide for high-speed Internet access, may be even further behind than previously thought by the Federal Communications Commission.
A recent state push to correct inaccuracies in the FCC’s Internet access data resulted in more than 10,000 appeals, exposing even larger holes in the FCC’s broadband “map” for the state than previously acknowledged.
While the new documentation of many places lacking network service may not seem like particularly positive news, one positive outcome is likely to be that Oklahoma will receive a lot more federal money — perhaps up to $53 million or more — in the years to come expand high-speed Internet access.
According to the Oklahoma Broadband Office, which was formed last year to develop and administer grant programs to provide affordable high-speed Internet to all Oklahoma residents, the state’s current FCC map would be updated to reflect recent challenges has been showing more than 188,000 locations without access to even the lowest broadband Internet service as defined by the FCC. The vast majority are in rural areas.
The state’s #43 ranking is based on the assumption that 87.8% of Oklahomans live in areas served by at least 25 megabits per second of Internet access, the current benchmark used by the FCC. In rural communities, access drops to 71.8%, and in many rural counties fewer than one in 10 households have access to reliable broadband service, the OBO said.
Earlier last month, the bureau asked Oklahomaans to review the accuracy of the information on the FCC card and file appeals if errors were found. Thousands have replied. At the same time, the bureau hired AppGeo, an industry expert, to search the map and provide additional challenges on behalf of the state.
“We anticipate that the work being done on behalf of the state and the countless people of rural Oklahoma in dire need of high-speed internet service will be of great help in ensuring we can successfully complete our mission,” said Mike Fina, who chairs the bureau’s board of directors. “We are grateful to the many Oklahomans who took the time to review the map and provide accurate information to the FCC.”
It is anticipated that each successful AppGeo challenge could result in additional grants of up to $5,000. Should all challenges submitted on behalf of the state be successful, it could result in an increase of $53 million over the result that would have been awarded based on the original FCC card data. Successful challenges raised by individual citizens across the state would add to the total.
Grant funding for Oklahoma will be announced by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration this summer and is expected to exceed $700 million. Additional funds should even increase this sum significantly. The state gets much of its funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.