(The Center Square) – A bill that would use federal funds to create a state broadband office has passed the Oklahoma House and is under consideration in the Senate.
If passed and signed into law, House Bill 3363 could lead to the expansion of internet access to 95% of Oklahomans, said Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, one of the authors of the bill.
There is no anticipated state fiscal impact as the bill uses federal funds, according to John Estus, who manages communications for House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, who co-sponsored the bill.
“Like most states, Oklahoma expects hundreds of millions of federal dollars to be available for broadband,” Estus told The Center Square. “The administrative allowance provided with those federal dollars will be sufficient to fund the broadband office.”
The office would oversee the creation and implementation of the statewide broadband plan, including creating a broadband services map and overseeing grant applications and awards for connectivity and affordability projects, among other responsibilities, according to the bill.
HB 3363 also would authorize the new Oklahoma Broadband Office to study existing grants, incentives and programs that may improve access to broadband. The grants, incentives and programs may include federal funds, state funds or resources, state or local tax incentives, among other things, according to the bill.
Federal money that will be used includes funds from the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, according to the bill. Oklahoma received $350 billion in COVID-19 relief funds. Part of the money was designated for broadband expansion.
The state is receiving an additional $65 million for broadband expansion through the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act. A factsheet about the bill issued last year by the Biden Administration said 24% of Oklahomans live where there is "no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds." About 16% of the state's residents do not have an internet subscription, according to the factsheet.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee. If it receives a do pass recommendation there, it will go before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
via Oklahoma's Center Square News