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Agricultural News

Hilliary Communications Bringing Fiber-Optic Internet to Parts of Rural Oklahoma

Tue, 02 Nov 2021 20:47:23 CDT

Hilliary Communications Bringing Fiber-Optic Internet to Parts of Rural Oklahoma Last week, Hilliary Communications announced that it will be investing more than $45 million in rural America to expand affordable, high-powered fiber optic internet where traditional bank loans and infrastructure programs are not readily available. The area of greatest impact will be in southern Oklahoma beginning in the Lawton region and stretching as far east as Talihina.

Today, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Director Ron Hays spoke with JJ Francais, assistant vice president of special projects with Hilliary Communications, about the announcement. According to Francais, Hilliary Communications has been dedicated to serving rural communities since its beginning, in the 1960s in Medicine Park, Okla.

“We provide internet, phone and TV throughout 23 counties in Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa,” Francais said. “Today, we service many rural communities.”

On Aug. 11, 2021, Hilliary Communications was awarded $32.7 million in federal funds by the USDA. That same day, the company announced that it would invest an additional $12.5 million in private funds, making up a total of $45 million. The regional companies, under the Hilliary Communications umbrella, set to get funding are Oklahoma Western Telephone Company, Texhoma Fiber LLC, Southern Plains Cable LLC and Tatum Telephone Company.

“Without USDA dollars, the internet simply would not exist in those communities due to the high cost of building internet (infrastructure),” Francais said. “It is a cost-per-mile issue. In rural Oklahoma, you build less homes per mile than you do in urban areas.”

The funds Hilliary Communications secured were about 25% of the total grant money awarded by the USDA on Aug. 11, through the ReConnect program. Francais said the company has a long track record of applying for and securing grant funding.

“Going back decades, we are one of the most aggressive companies in Oklahoma and nationwide in pursuing USDA dollars,” Francais said.

According to Francais, this funding from the USDA was born out of the same thinking that brought electricity to rural communities throughout the U.S. in 1936. The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 allowed the federal government to make low-cost loans to farmers who had banded together to create non-profit cooperatives for the purpose of bringing electricity to rural America, according to the National Park Service website.

“(Then) it became apparent that telephone services became essential to modern life,” Francais said. “Now, our company and many others will tell you that in today’s world internet is just as important as electricity or telephone (was).”

Today, the internet is vital to everything from economic development to telemedicine and even farming, according to Francais.

Hit the LISTEN BAR below to hear Ron Hays and JJ Francais talk about Hilliary Communications’ move to bring internet to rural Oklahoma.



Listen to Ron's conversation with JJ here.
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