Treasury Department clears $167.7M for Oklahoma internet projects

Oklahoma will rake in $167.7 million for high-speed internet projects under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF) to provide some 20,000 homes and businesses with affordable connectivity. The new funding, approved by the Treasury Department, represents the state’s total CPF allocation.

Those funds will support the Oklahoma Broadband Infrastructure Grants (OBIG) Program, which aims to lower financial obstacles for internet service providers (ISPs) in expanding broadband infrastructure. The state’s initiative targets areas with historically challenging investment conditions due to population density and geographical limitations.

Oklahoma expects the new CPF investments will cover around 13% of locations currently without high-speed internet access.

The Treasury Department will eventually dish out a total of $10 billion as part of CPF to states, territories and Tribal governments. It started announcing each state’s allocation in June and has since awarded over $8 billion in CPF money, which states and territories estimate will reach over two million locations.

Beyond broadband infrastructure, states like Kansas are investing in digital connectivity technology projects to address gaps in digital equity, affordability and broadband adoption. Other states – including Connecticut, Delaware and Idaho – are using CPF resources to build and improve multi-purpose community centers where residents can access high-speed internet.   

Oklahoma has already scored in several federal funding rounds this year, including more than $50 million from the ReConnect Program. The state was also awarded through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) in July, with four Tribal entities receiving roughly $500,000 apiece.

ACP required for Capital Projects Fund despite program’s uncertainty

The Treasury Department still requires each state’s plan to work with service providers to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), despite concerns over the program’s longevity. The ACP provides a discount for eligible households of up to $30 per month (or up to $75 per eligible household on Tribal lands).

Experts estimate that nearly 40% of U.S. households are eligible for the ACP discount. However, nearly two years after the program was started, some have gauged that half of all households eligible for the ACP internet subsidy are still unaware of the benefit.

Meanwhile, the $14 billion ACP has been projected to run out of money sometime next year unless Congress allocates more funding for the program.

Former FCC lawyer Diane Holland said that has created a “double-edged sword”—as the FCC works to get the word out about ACP, more eligible households will sign up for the subsidy.

“And that is going to deplete the funding even more quickly than it's currently being depleted,” Holland told Fierce. “It's a great thing that more people are learning about the program, but it also brings about a more dire need to get more funding in the program.”

If the ACP doesn’t receive more funding, it's possible that some ISPs work something out with the program’s recipients to extend their service, even though they may not get the broadband benefit right away from the government.

“But I do suspect that the vast majority of people will just be cut off,” Holland added. “The solution will be getting Congress to focus, in a timely manner, on the impact of letting the funding for this program lapse.”