OKLAHOMA CITY – The full Senate has given approval to a measure that will ultimately help improve broadband access throughout rural Oklahoma. House Bill 4018 creates the Rural Broadband Expansion Act. Authored by Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and coauthored by Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, the bill was approved unanimously on Tuesday.
Leewright, who chairs the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee, said expanding rural broadband is a critical issue for the entire state. Oklahoma is currently ranked 47th in the nation in rural broadband access.
“I can tell you one of the first things companies looking at Oklahoma want to know is how is our connectivity,” Leewright said. “The importance of this issue has become even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic as so much of our day-to-day lives has shifted to online. For businesses, health care, schools, colleges and universities and so much more, developing a workable plan to expand rural access must be a top priority. That’s what this bill is all about.”
The bill calls for the creation of a Rural Broadband Expansion Council to study rural broadband access in the state, including determining costs for improving access.
“The council in this bill includes executive and legislative branch officials, plus private sector, academic and rural stakeholders who can collectively craft a good plan for us as legislators to enact,” Phillips said. “Under the bill, everyone will know the rules and get a seat at the table to produce a strategic plan that makes the best use of resources in a way that gets results for rural communities that need better broadband.”
“This bill puts the expertise of all stakeholders together to craft the best rural broadband plan possible in a unified manner,” McCall said. “I thank the Senate for their strong support of this collaborative council, and Representative Logan Phillips for being the architect of this bill that will bring benefits to rural Oklahoma for years to come.”
HB 4018 will now move to the governor for his consideration.
For more information, contact Sen. James Leewright at 405-521-5528 or email James.Leewright@oksenate.gov.
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