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Broadband adoption numbers differ in some western Oklahoma counties

Oklahoma’s Broadband Governing Board approved 142 grants for broadband projects in January.
Todd Johnson
OSU Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma’s Broadband Governing Board approved 142 grants for broadband projects in January.

The number of people getting connected to broadband differs in a few northwest Oklahoma counties when compared to the rest of the state, according to the Oklahoma State University Extension.

Using state-level data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2022 Census of Agriculture, extension experts found broadband adoption numbers dropped in Woods, Harper and Beaver Counties.

Brian Whitacre, a rural economic development extension specialist, said the state’s broadband connectivity numbers have increased overall since the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the extension, the percentage of Oklahoma households with a broadband connection increased from about 84% to nearly 89% from 2019 to 2022.

“I mean, there’s been a lot of research showing farms use it to find low-cost inputs,” Whitacre said. “They do research online. They find buyers online. And so, we think a lot of farms are using the internet and for most of the state, that is true.”

Whitacre was surprised to see the numbers slightly decrease in the counties and attributed the decline to fewer producers overall in the areas.

“For example in Woods County in 2017, they had about 710 farms reporting. Now they only have about 600,” Whitacre said. “So we lost 100 farms.”

When talking about broadband connectivity in the state, Whitacre said there’s a difference between availability, meaning a provider is in an area offering broadband, and adoption, or when someone pays for that connection on a monthly basis.

“There’s plenty of places across the state, including in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, where there are good broadband connections available, but people just can’t afford it,” Whitacre said.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma’s Broadband Governing Board approved $374 million in grants for internet projects.

He said the findings from the census data are important because now people know there are a couple of counties where farmers are not adopting broadband. This gives the extension an opportunity to educate people about internet connectivity, he said.

The Oklahoma Broadband Office Map shows places with service or scheduled to get connected. He said if people are not in those areas, they should speak with the local service providers because money will be allocated for more broadband projects.

“So let them know you want the service, and they should apply for service in your area,” Whitacre said. “Basically, it's money to help get rural Oklahomans connected.”

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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