OKLAHOMA CITY — More than 55,000 Oklahomans are expected to benefit after a state board on Thursday approved its first round of grants to improve access to high-speed internet.
The state’s Broadband Governing Board approved $374 million in grants for projects in 57 counties, according to a news release.
More than 30 internet-service providers will receive the grants funded with federal pandemic relief dollars for 142 different broadband projects.
“The board’s action is a giant step forward to improving quality of life and fostering digital growth throughout Oklahoma, but especially in rural areas,” Oklahoma Broadband Office Director Mike Sanders said in the release. “Access to reliable and affordable broadband will enable better educational and health care services, stimulate economic development, and empower Oklahomans to leverage the online technologies of the future, regardless of zip code.”
The Broadband Office was flooded with applications for the American Rescue Plan Act funds. The office that was formed in recent years to deliver high-speed internet to 95% of Oklahomans by 2028 received applications seeking more than $5.1 billion in funding.
The proposals were whittled down by eliminating areas that already have broadband access or will soon gain it. Then the proposals were scored using a uniform set of criteria.
In order to receive the grants, the internet-service providers will put up at least $90 million in matching funds.
The projects must be completed by 2026.
This is the first of several grant allocations the Broadband Office will oversee. Next, the office will award $159 million in American Rescue Plan funds. Then, the office will award more than $750 million in grants as part of the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program.
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