If you were limited to using one word to describe internet access in Lawton, the word would be “inconsistent.”
That is among the identified problems some residents identified for the Oklahoma Broadband Office and Connected Nation officials who were in Lawton Friday as part of the Let’s Get Digital: Oklahoma Broadband Tour.
The Oklahoma Broadband Office was established by the State Legislature in 2022 to lead the efforts to ensure fast and affordable internet service throughout the state. The Legislature also has allocated a percentage of Oklahoma’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding toward upgrading broadband, and that’s the reason for the tour.
Sierra Sees, with Connected Nation, said the goal of Let’s Get Digital is surveying residents, business owners, community entities and pretty much anyone who has a need for high-speed internet to determine what they have and what they need. The Broadband Office has been tasked with leading efforts to create a five-year plan to connect the entire state to high-speed internet, giving state leaders an idea of exactly how the funding needs to be spent to best benefit Oklahomans.
Priority will be given to those areas without internet access, as well as those defined as underserved (meaning they have less than 25/3 Mbps speed, or 25 metabits per second download and 3 metabits per second upload). While the federal government is determining how much each state gets to address broadband issues, Oklahoma gets to decide how to spend those dollars, Sees said. And, that’s why the Broadband Office is out in Oklahoma quizzing residents.
“There is a need,” said Lawton Public Library Director Kristin Herr, as she outlined the numerous programs her library already provides — from wi-fi access to answering digital-related questions as simple as how to use a computer program — and how the library could use more help.
Collecting those stories is crucial, Sees said, adding the ultimate goal Oklahoma is trying to meet is a minimum access speed of 100/20 Mbps for everybody when the broadband buildout is done.
M.J. Barton, Oklahoma Broadband Office’s tribal and programs outreach manager, said that’s why talking to her office is important.
“We’re looking at surveys for input,” she said, of the details state offices must have as they begin to craft the map that will identify broadband needs.
Information about the survey is available by contacting the Broadband Office at okahoma.gov/broadband.html, or Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org.