OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation creating the State Broadband Deployment Grant Program is one step closer to becoming law. On Wednesday, the full Senate voted in favor of House Bill 1124, by Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, and Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds.
Leewright is chair of the Senate’s Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee, and co-chair of the state’s Rural Broadband Expansion Council. The Council was created in the 2020 session to identify ways to expand broadband access throughout rural Oklahoma. Leewright said HB 1124 is one of several measures moving through the Legislature this year as part of a comprehensive approach to address this critical need. Oklahoma is ranked 47th in rural broadband access.
“Congress has voted to make $7 billion available for broadband expansion. The mission of the State Broadband Deployment Grant Program will be to help us capture those federal broadband expansion dollars and make sure they are going where they’re needed most and will do the greatest good,” Leewright said.
Under HB 1124, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, with input from the Rural Broadband Expansion Council, would promulgate rules and procedures for the establishment of the State Broadband Deployment Grant Program. This will include development of a competitive grant program to award funding to applicants seeking to expand access to broadband Internet service in Oklahoma. The bill directs Commerce and the Council to look at best practices in other states to help facilitate the framework of the program and creates a revolving fund.
“Again, these are federal dollars, so this has no impact on our state budget, but it will help us get much-needed resources to aid in our mission of targeting Oklahoma’s underserved rural communities, ensuring businesses, schools, families and individuals will have access to reliable, affordable broadband services,” Leewright said.
HB 1124 now returns to the House for further consideration.
“Our state has fallen behind when it comes to broadband development and access,” Phillips. “This lack of development hurts our rural areas and makes us less competitive in the process of attracting businesses to our state. The passage of House Bill 1124 will help speed up the process, lay out some very clear guidelines and expectations for the Department of Commerce, and start working towards expanding broadband access across Oklahoma.”
For more information, contact Sen. James Leewright at 405-521-5528 or email James.Leewright@oksenate.gov