Spatial Validation of Oklahoma Broadband Accessibility
Oklahoma is comprised of vibrant cities and towns while remaining substantially rural throughout the majority of its seventy-seven counties. Access to technology for the provision of enhanced education, healthcare and emergency services plus job growth and development, have long been identified as one of the most essential tools a community must have to expand its economic potential and community livability. Government and education leaders, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, state and local Chambers of Commerce, and statewide policy organizations are unanimous in their support for the need to provide a statewide network of easy and accessible broadband.
The Oklahoma Broadband Initiative’s vision is to create a knowledge-based economy and ensure high quality education, healthcare and public safety services for citizens across the state. In order to realize this vision, a key component is the expansion and improvement of broadband access and the availability of this access to all communities, anchor institutions - including libraries, schools, hospitals and first responders - and all households. The first phase of this vision was the creation of the Broadband Map for the entire state. This map depicted areas that were served, unserved and underserved. The Oklahoma Broadband Mapping Project was achieved through a partnership comprised of local, state and tribal governments, non-governmental agencies, private sector and industry representatives, and the educational community to include early, common, and higher education, career technical training and workforce development. A technical working group reviewed proposals and recommended the selection of a professional firm to collect and compile the necessary data to map broadband accessibility and to submit required data to National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for preparation of the national broadband map.
The second phase of the Oklahoma Broadband Initiative was the formation of public/private partnerships with vendors to deploy infrastructure to provide broadband access to community anchor institutions such as hospitals, universities, libraries, and public safety. In this phase, the demand for better access to broadband infrastructure is addressed. The process included:
- Analyzing the mapping data,
- Defining the challenges and opportunities to adoption of broadband,
- Collecting consumer data concerning the use of broadband in underserved and unserved areas, including information technology capabilities,
- Identifying priorities and strategies for expanding broadband in underserved and unserved areas, and
- Developing a consumer education and awareness initiative to increase the adoption and utilization of broadband throughout Oklahoma.
The State of Oklahoma, through a competitive bid process, selected the Sanborn Map Company (Sanborn) to collect the necessary vendor data, prepare biannual submissions to the NTIA and build a publicly accessible interactive web-based map gallery. Additionally, the state tasked the University of Oklahoma, Center for Spatial Analysis (OUCSA) to independently verify Sanborn’s findings, validate mapping products and conduct outreach to rural Oklahomans regarding the importance of broadband Internet services to their communities, businesses, families and themselves as individuals. A comprehensive summary of findings from the work of the Oklahoma Broadband Initiative, the Sanborn Map Company and the OU Center for Spatial Analysis over this four year period is provided in the project Final Report – Digital Oklahoma: Harnessing the Speed of Light.