Rogers County Commissioners approved Atlas Broadband to break ground and begin construction of a tower in Oologah — the start of a $16 million project to make wired internet available across the county.
“We are one of the first counties to undertake such a significant project,” said District II Commissioner Steve Hendrix. “We will make wired internet available to every home in the county.”
Commissioners have approved a utility license for Atlas Broadband to begin work near Ruby Estates in Inola.
“One of our first projects is in Inola in the [Ruby Estates] is totally underserved, basically no internet and we’re going to make this our first hybrid project,” Hendrix said. “It’s one of the ways we’re going to reach areas where major AT&T lines or whatever big business can’t reach.”
Commissioners are starting in Chelsea, Oologah and Inola and then branching out into more rural areas, he said. Hendrix said the hope is that the project will show larger internet service providers that there is a solution to delivering internet to rural areas.
“It’s not profitable for [bigger carriers] to lay lines in rural areas, so we have a hybrid solution that will bounce off a tower and then provide wired internet access to everyone in that neighborhood,” Hendrix said. “So we’re starting there as a sort of test or prototype to show the bigger companies, ‘Hey, we can do this. We have a solution.
Hendrix said the commissioners had a verbal agreement with a major carrier, which cannot be named because the agreement is not final, where the carrier will provide dollar-for-dollar consideration on certain areas of the project. The commissioners are drawing on funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as internet-specific grants to fund the project.
“We’re using some of the money from ARPA to get the project started, but we’ll be tapping into other federal funds that will be allocated specifically for broadband in the form of grants to reach the full amount,” Hendrix said.
The project works in tandem with the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), created by the Biden administration. Under the CPA, eligible households can receive $30 per month off their internet bills.
Three different measures determine if a household is eligible for ACP credit – Household income below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines ($27,180 for a household of 1, $36,620 for 2, $55,500 for 4) , someone in the household is participating in one of 10 government assistance programs, or someone meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider’s existing low-income internet program . Anyone interested can register at getinternet.gov.
“If you take [a participating broadband provider’s] lowest tier plan is $30,” Hendrix said. “Basically, this will equate to free internet service.”