Updated May 20
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed House Bill 4018 on Tuesday, writing that the Secretary of Digital Transformation David Ostrowe has already created a broadband task force and creating a Rural Broadband Expansion Council would be unneccesary and redundant.
ORIGINAL POST (May 14)
The Oklahoma Senate unanimously passed a bill earlier this week aimed at improving broadband in rural Oklahoma.
House Bill 4018 calls for the creation of a Rural Broadband Expansion Council to study access in the state, including costs for improvements and developing a uniform statewide system.
Senator James Leewright, who co-authored the bill, says the COVID-19 pandemic alone has shined a light on the importance of Internet connectivity as well as an investment in the economy.
“Just for education, for connectivity or telemedicine, and then you go to when we are recruiting companies from out of state, one of their major questions – you would think it would be workforce development – but, number one and number two questions they always ask is, 'What’s your connectivity?',” Leewright said.
The Bristow Republican says Oklahoma is currently ranked 47th in the nation in rural broadband access. A recent survey by the Oklahoma Department of Education said at least 167,000 of Oklahoma’s 700,000 students don’t have home internet access.
The measure, also known as the Rural Broadband Expansion Act, already passed the State House by a vote of 94 to 2. It now heads to the governor’s desk for his consideration.
KOSU depends on donors to keep delivering you the news and information you need. Support this public service by giving monthly as a sustaining member of KOSU or make a one-time donation of your choice. Thank you. Click here to give.