State seeks to hire director in bid to increase internet access

The state is looking to hire a director for Oklahoma’s new broadband office as it ramps up efforts to increase internet access and connectivity across the state. (Photo illustration by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash)

OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) — The state is looking to hire someone to lead what has been described as the most significant infrastructure improvement project undertaken in decades, an effort to connect 95% of Oklahomans to the Internet in here 2028.

Currently, about 31% of Oklahoma households do not have an internet connection or have no service, according to US Census data. This ranks the state near the bottom among states.

Nationwide, an estimated 22.5% of households do not have home internet and must use public Wi-Fi or other means to connect. Connectivity has been a challenge, especially for people who live in predominantly rural states, and especially for those who live in communities marked by deep poverty.

High-speed internet access is seen as increasingly important as it affects everything from education and healthcare delivery to economic development, officials said.

“Building broadband to reach every Oklahoman is perhaps the most significant infrastructure project this state has seen in the past 30 years,” said Oklahoma Municipal League executive director Mike Fina. , who chairs a nine-member council created to oversee the new one. Oklahoma Broadband Office.

The council announced Thursday that it is looking for someone to lead the administration of more than $269 million in grants, with the goal of providing adequate broadband service to 95% of people residing in the state by June 2028.

“The person we hire must manage the unique relationships between the state, carriers and tribes with the ultimate goal of connecting every Oklahoman to reliable and affordable broadband by the end of 2028. The successful candidate will have a tremendous responsibility placed on their shoulders,” Fina said.

The Broadband Office was created after the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 3363 this year. The measure also created the Board of Supervisors, consisting of the lieutenant governor, the state treasurer, the president of Oklahoma House, the president of the Senate pro tempore, and several governor appointees.

According to a statement, the manager to be hired will be responsible for building and managing the implementation of broadband services across the state. Those interested in the position can apply through jobs.ok.gov, the state’s online application site. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in business administration, computer science, information technology, or related field with five to 10 years of senior-level management experience in telecommunications, business, government, think tank” related to broadband, non-profit or related industry.

As planned, the Oklahoma Broadband Office is to exist until June 30, 2028. Together, the office and its board have been tasked with developing the Statewide Broadband Plan, the State Broadband Grant Program, and other programs and projects. grants to address unserved and underserved problems. areas.

Recently, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding voted unanimously to spend more than $2 million of state federal relief funds to complete needed broadband mapping. to the creation of the state broadband plan. The fiscal analysis for HB 3363 notes that the broadband office will be funded by federal programs and funds available from the state broadband subsidy program revolving fund. As it is not known what the actual cost of the new office will be, it remains possible that appropriate funds will be needed in the future, he said.

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