Oklahoma, currently third in the country for high-speed network access, may be even further behind than previously thought by the Federal Communications Commission.
A recent state push to address inaccuracies in the FCC’s knowledge of Internet access resulted in more than 10,000 challenges that revealed even larger gaps in the FCC’s broadband “map” for the state than had previously been acknowledged.
While the brand new documentation of many missing locations on the internet doesn’t look like very optimistic news, in all likelihood a optimistic bottom line will be that Oklahoma will be in line for much more federal money — perhaps as much as $53 million or more – to expand access to the high-speed web for years to come.
According to the Oklahoma Broadband Office, which was formed last year to develop and administer subsidy packages to provide affordable high-speed Internet to all Oklahoma residents, the state’s current FCC card would meet the latest challenges and provide more than 188,000 seats without access to the lowest tier of broadband Internet service as described by the FCC. The overwhelming majority are in rural areas.
The state’s #43 rating is based on the notion that 87.8% of Oklahomans reside in areas served by at least 25 megabits of internet access per second, the current benchmark used by the FCC. In rural communities, access drops to 71.8%, and in many rural counties fewer than one in ten households have access to reliable broadband service, according to the OBO.
Earlier last month, the Oklahomans’ Bureau issued a name to verify the accuracy of the information on the FCC card and file appeals when errors were discovered. Thousands have replied. At the same time, the company hired AppGeo, a commercial expert, to comb the map and locate other 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 works council. “We are grateful to the many Oklahomans who took the time to review the map and provide accurate information to the FCC.”
It is believed that each profitable AppGeo issue could end up with 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 what would have been awarded primarily based on unique FCC card knowledge. Successful challenges set by individual residents across the state would add even more to the whole.
Grant funding for Oklahoma is scheduled to be introduced this summer by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and is forecast to be as high as $700 million. Additional funds should contribute significantly to this whole. The state gets much of its funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.