Monday, November 2, 2015
In Oklahoma, my administration has focused on diversifying our economy, building our workforce and educating our citizens. We have worked to build an Oklahoma that attracts companies and new industries. I'm happy to say we are succeeding. To continue building on what makes the Sooner State great, we must continue encouraging investments in our technology infrastructure.
President Reagan once said, "There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination and wonder." I believe access to technology is an essential tool to achieve this vision and help communities expand their economic potential. Government leaders, educators, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, state and local chambers of commerce and policy organizations agree: Oklahoma needs networks of ultra-fast, reliable and accessible broadband.
Widespread high-speed broadband can boost local economies in many ways. Investment in physical infrastructure and labor creates jobs immediately. Increased expenditures into inputs like electronics and fiber optic cabling add value directly to the economy. But perhaps most importantly: next generation broadband infrastructure can help shift economic activity, sparking local tech scenes and the relocation of businesses.
A recent study looked at communities with very fast, gigabit speed Internet and found that 14 communities where the speeds were widely available enjoyed approximately $1.4 billion in additional Gross Domestic Product. Ultra-fast broadband gives communities a competitive advantage. For example, Pixel Magic created a studio in Lafayette, La., and added 100-200 new jobs. They relocated because LUS Fiber, the local gigabit network, could connect Pixel Magic to partners anywhere in the world. Chattanooga, Tenn.,-based Tractmanager credits the area’s technology infrastructure for its success. And the numbers back it up: in the first 10 years Chattanooga offered enhanced broadband services the network created an estimated 3,600 jobs.
Wall Street notices this impact: In 2013, the ratings agency Fitch upgraded Kansas City, Mo.,'s bond ratings from "negative" to "stable," arguing that the city's growing gigabit offerings were "already attracting a number of smaller Internet and data companies to the city and has the potential to make a significant economic impact."
As a state, we’ve worked hard to bring broadband Internet access to institutions like colleges, CareerTech Centers and hospitals, through public/private partnerships like the Oklahoma Community Anchor Network. Unfortunately, nearly half of all Oklahomans and 89 percent of those in rural areas still lack access to what federal regulators now consider high-speed Internet. Even in urban areas, 29 percent of Oklahomans do not have access to the World Wide Web. We can do better, and we will.
One exciting development on this front is the recent announcement that Google and Oklahoma City are exploring bringing Google Fiber – an ultra-high speed Internet product – to the area. Introducing Google Fiber will add further momentum to a growing tech industry in Oklahoma and will promote competition and faster services for consumers, entrepreneurs and businesses in our state. I look forward to continuing to work with the people of Oklahoma and our great telecommunications and Internet companies on bringing us better and faster Internet access in all areas of the state.