Broadband Brings Rural Oklahomans OpportunitesThu, 22 May 2014 15:41:10 CDT
Broadband is the latest technology to bridge rural America with the rest world. Oklahoma hosted the first of three regional and economic development workshops Thursday at the Francis Tuttle Technology Center.
Telecommunications Assistant Administrator Keith Adams says the meeting is bringing together non-traditional partners.
"Community leaders and economic development professionals around the centering theme of broadband," Adams said. "And how we can use broadband throughout rural america to drive businesses back to rural America, to keep rural Americans in rural America and to give rural Americans the same access to the same quality range and same quality broadband services."
Annually Oklahoma is one of the top five states in the country for funding of broadband projects. Earlier this week, Adams attended a ribbon cutting ceremony in the southwest Oklahoma town of Cooperton. Adams says USDA Rural Development awarded Hillary Communications with a grant to provide residents with access to 10 computers with broadband access.
"People from the community for two years free of charge can come in and they can access social media, they can access school work if they want to do that, they can access the world via the internet, which they haven't had an opportunity to do," Adams said. "We have a proctor who will be there who will be offering classes."
Without broadband, rural areas will not have the same opportunities as urban counterparts. Oklahoma Rural Development State Director Ryan McMullen says investment into broadband can decrease driving time, while increasing access to medicine and educational opportunties.
"Oklahoma year after year is one of the top two or three states in the nation as far as accessing our distance learning and telemedicine dollars," McMullen said. "And every year about this time we have an active NOFA open for applications to apply for those distance learning and telemedicine dollars, which are grant dollars that provide dollars for educational institutions as well as health care facilities. "
The Obama Administration has set out to bring broadband to all schools by 2016. But getting the rest of Oklahoma on the internet super highway will take some time. McMullen says bringing broadband to rural Oklahoma has been a project 10 years in the making and it will likely take another 20 - 30 years to adopt the technology statewide.
Oklahoma has ten Rural Development offices across the state, located within USDA Service Centers.
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