OSU’s Brian Whitacre Gives Rural Broadband Update

Listen to KC Sheperd talk with Brian Whitacre about broadband in Oklahoma.

Farm Director, KC Sheperd, recently had the chance to talk with Oklahoma State University’s Brian Whitacre about an update on broadband in Oklahoma, including funding for different programs and connectivity progress throughout the state.

“The biggest news is that the federal program, the Affordable Connectivity Program, that gave low-income households between 30 and 75 dollars per month to help pay for their broadband connection actually ended at the end of May,” Whitacre said. “That program is no more. There were about 350,000 households in Oklahoma that were participating in that.”

In a survey, Whitacre said one-third of the households previously enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program said they would not be able to afford broadband otherwise.

“There has been some talk at the federal level about trying to bring this back, but it looks like for at least the next couple of months, it has gone away, so people should be aware their internet bills are going to increase in the immediate future,” Whitacre said.

For those who come from a low-income household and are interested in broadband funding, Whitacre said Lifeline Support is a federal program that lowers the monthly cost of phone or internet service.

For those who are in an area that does not have broadband yet, Whitacre said the Oklahoma Broadband Office will be accepting applications soon for the Capital Projects Fund, which includes $159 million dollars to distribute. This will be round two of funding, so to see a map of sites that were awarded funding in the first round, click here.

“These are programs that the internet provider themselves are going out and asking the broadband office for,” Whitacre said.

Regarding broadband access across the state, Whitacre said there are still close to 200,000 households that do not have a good broadband provider. With this next round of funding within the Capital Projects Fund, Whitacre said 50,000 more households in the state can expect better broadband connectivity.

As a researcher, Whitacre said he has found that there is a correlation between strong broadband strength and new business growth in rural and urban areas. Whitacre also talked about the addition of Telehealth booths in soundproof rooms inside of rural libraries.

“People that can’t make an hour, two hours, or sometimes a three-hour trip to see a healthcare specialist that they might need, they can set up a virtual session with that specialist in their local library and have someone there that can help them through that process, set the appointment, there is equipment in there if they need to check blood pressure or look at their tonsils or whatever the case is,” Whitacre said.

To visit the Oklahoma Broadband Office website, click here.

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