What You Need to Know About Rural Broadband, with OSU's Brian WhitacreFri, 13 Aug 2021 10:22:05 CDT
Brian Whitacre, extension specialist for Rural Economic Development at Oklahoma State University talked about the ins and outs of rural broadband in Oklahoma.
Rural Oklahoma is below the national average when it comes to the availability and adoption of broadband, according to Whitacre.
“Both are important for improving a whole host of things,” Whitacre said. “COVID-19 made clear why broadband is important.”
Yes, most people have smartphones now, which can access the internet, but Whitacre said there is a difference between working on a smartphone versus a computer. Whitacre said, not only are doing basic things, like filling out a resume is harder, are harder on a smartphone, but the connection is not as strong.
“Where we are going, you are going to need more (internet) speed,” Whitacre said. “Fiber is the gold standard for broadband access… there is a difference between a fixed connection and a mobile connection.”
According to Whitacre, funding for this massive endeavor comes in the form of Coronavirus Relief dollars. But those funds are not solely set aside for broadband infrastructure, he added. County commissioners control how incoming dollars will be spent, so it is important for communities to reach out to their local government, Whitacre said.
Ultimately, installing broadband in rural communities comes down to two things: economics and communities’ relationships with local providers.
In another step to make broadband even more accessible, the federal government is offering financial aid to households that qualify, Whitacre said. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a new program in which Oklahomans can receive up to $75 a month to put toward their broadband bill.
“Data shows that about 72% of rural Oklahomans have broadband available to them but don’t sign up because of cost,” Whitacre said.
To see if you qualify, go to the EBB website where online or paper applications can be found, or reach out to your local OSU county extension office for help.
Click or tap the LISTEN BAR below to hear more of KC’s conversation with Brian.
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