TULSA, Okla. (September 6, 2023)
Applications open today for six communities to participate in 16-week community engagement and planning program
Heartland Forward and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society are creating a new planning and capacity-building program to help northeast Oklahoma communities plan for and use infrastructure funding for community-driven high-speed internet expansion. Applications open today for the Oklahoma Accelerate program, which will help local governments in northeast Oklahoma communities receive expert support as they prepare to leverage new dollars that will be made available through the historic passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Oklahoma Accelerate program is made possible through Heartland Forward and its Connecting the Heartland initiative.
Local leaders, particularly at the county level, and tribal leaders are encouraged to apply to receive expert support offered as part of an intensive, primarily virtual, 16-week community engagement program. Oklahoma Accelerate is designed to maximize federal funding for expanding access to affordable high-speed internet and digital skills. Applications are due on October 13, and interested teams can apply here.
Six teams will be selected to participate in the first cohort, which begins the week of October 23, 2023. Each applicant will recruit a team of at least eight, and up to 15, participants to actively engage in the program. The team should include a combination of local stakeholders from the following entities: city or county governments, development districts, agriculture, educational institutions at all levels, libraries, information technology centers, chambers of commerce, healthcare providers and other applicable entities.
The Oklahoma Accelerate program works to prepare applicants in establishing and implementing a full-scale connectivity vision. Through more than 30 hours of no-cost expert counsel provided by the Benton Institute, both in-person and virtually, the program will equip leaders to develop consensus around infrastructure, affordability and digital skills goals. The program will prioritize coordination around future funding opportunities to provide affordable high-speed internet to Oklahoma residents.
Interested counties, municipalities and tribal communities are invited to join a virtual information session on September 22 at 9:00am CT. Please RSVP here to join. Leaders can also contact Bill Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org and Solomon Graves at email@example.com with any additional questions. Communities will be selected based on the strength and commitment of the team they assemble. Other factors include a community’s level of preparedness as evidenced by their application materials, as well as a demonstrated need.
Heartland Forward and the Benton Institute previously joined together with local partners to successfully run similar programs in Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee.
“Heartland Forward is proud to support the latest state Accelerate program in Oklahoma and to integrate tribal communities, a key population in the state. We appreciate the commitment of our local partners, such as the Oklahoma Broadband Office, who can connect participants to crucial local resources,” said Solomon Graves, director of public policy at Heartland Forward.
“The Benton Institute is excited to bring this community engagement and broadband planning program to Oklahoma and replicate the success we’ve had to date in Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee. We are confident our methodology will boost residents’ access to high-speed internet and advance digital opportunity in the state,” said Adrianne B. Furniss, executive director of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.
“Understanding the barriers to getting high-speed internet is vital when planning for deployment. The Accelerate program will help community leaders in Oklahoma design a strategy to allocate their funding in the most cost-effective way,” said Sam Karns of the Oklahoma Broadband Office.
NAME: Solomon Graves, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Heartland Forward:
Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 think-and-do tank dedicated to being a resource for states and local communities in the middle of the country. We do this by studying broad economic trends and building data-driven and community-tested partnerships, programs and policies to address the needs of the heartland – all while helping to change the narrative about the middle of the country and kick-starting economic growth. They launched the Connecting the Heartland Initiative in 2021 to spur action towards closing the digital divide in the middle of the country. To learn more, visit https://heartlandforward.org/.
About the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society:
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to affordable, high-performance broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communications policy—rooted in the values of access and equity—has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities. To learn more, visit benton.org.