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Federal Uncertainty Affecting Group Charged with Improving High-Speed Internet in Rural Oklahoma

Increasing access to high-speed internet in rural Oklahoma may be an even tougher task than it sounds because of federal uncertainty.

Oklahoma’s Rural Broadband Expansion Council, which started meeting in August, is still debating how "broadband" should be defined. Council Chair Rep. Logan Phillips (R-Mounds) said during their December meeting it seems like it should be easy.

"But it’s incredibly difficult to define because … we define it wrong, it will be used against us. It’ll stop us in our tracks," Phillips said.

The Federal Communications Commission currently considers broadband to be minimum 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 Mbps per second upload speed. But at least one commissioner has recommended upping the download speed to at least 100 Mbps per second, and the FCC has been criticized for a reporting form that considers an entire Census block served even if just a single location within it gets broadband service.

Phillips said that all complicates mapping the state’s broadband boundaries … work that could guide future investments to expand service.

"But does that mean it’s population center of X percentage of the population gets 25/3, then it counts as being served in a Census block? Or that means that everybody in every house has 25/3, is that served?" Phillips said.

An advisory group told the Rural Broadband Expansion Council current FCC reporting methods may incorrectly classify rural locations as served by broadband when they are actually unserved.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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