A woman at home uses a modem router, connecting the Internet to her laptop. A state office will award millions in grant funding to expand high-speed internet access in Oklahoma. (Getty Images) (This image cannot be republished unless you have a subscription to Getty.)
A state office tasked with awarding millions of dollars in federal money to increase access to high-speed internet services has been flooded with applications.
The Oklahoma Broadband Office announced companies could apply for $374 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars, but applications totaled $5.1 billion in projects, a spokesperson said.
The turnout is a good sign, Executive Director Mike Sanders said in a statement.
“The overwhelming response to our request for submissions speaks to the tremendous need for high-speed internet access in rural Oklahoma,” he said. “With almost $14 requested for every $1 available from this first grant program, the competition is strong and that bodes well for ensuring the most efficient use of funds.”
As many as 728,000 Oklahomans, many of whom live in rural areas, do not have access to affordable, high-speed internet.
Applications should be approved by early 2024, spokesman Tim Allen said. Projects have to be completed by Oct. 2, 2026.
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The board will prioritize projects that plan to pay above-average wages, hire local workers and construct internet infrastructure using industry-accepted standards, according to the application criteria.
The funding is the first in a series of federal grants that the Broadband Office plans to distribute, Allen said. Future grants will include $167.7 million in pandemic relief funds and $797.4 million from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment fund (BEAD).
In total, the board will award $1.3 billion in federal grants.
House Bill 3363, adopted in 2022, requires the Oklahoma Broadband Office to create a plan to deliver high-speed internet to 95% of Oklahomans by 2028.
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