Serving the Underserved

Posted: February 1, 2022 at 3:45 pm

As we move toward the second anniversary of dealing with COVID, we sometimes find disagreement on many subjects. One thing that is easy to agree on is the need for good, reliable, affordable, high speed internet across rural Oklahoma. Many take their internet access for granted. However, easy access to reliable, competitively priced internet service does not exist in many rural areas of the state.

More jobs are capable of being done from home, and if statistics are correct, many employees have found they prefer that option. However, due to limited access to high-quality internet, working from home is not easy for many Oklahomans.

When working from an office environment, employees generally require access to large amounts of corporate data, files and other information necessary to do their jobs. Without comparable access, projects can take much longer to complete when working remotely. But many employees are not able to work from home at all due to very slow or no internet access. When internet service is available, it often becomes an additional expense for employees to work from home.

Many rural companies operate out of home offices or small businesses. Their links to commodity markets, contractors, supplies and other necessary business activities can be difficult, slow and sometimes unavailable due to limited high speed internet access.

On the personal side, social media access, including video chatting with your children, grandchildren or friends can be extraordinarily slow or non-existent. The daily activities many of us take for granted are luxuries many folks just don’t have—not because they can’t afford them, but they simply aren’t available.

Currently, many distribution cooperatives are working individually or banding together to bring reliable, affordable, high speed internet to areas in Oklahoma where it is unavailable. This effort began with a few larger distribution cooperatives, but has gained momentum and is bringing high speed internet to more rural areas all the time. This type of project is a natural fit for cooperatives to work toward quality of life improvements in rural areas of the state. Once upon a time, cooperatives brought electricity to rural Oklahoma. Now, maybe it is time to bring high speed internet.

If high speed, reliable, affordable internet is in your area, thank your lucky stars. If not, let your local rural electric cooperative know you support the effort. This essential service should be available to even the remotest areas of the state.

By Gary Roulet

Board President | Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives