Students at Comanche Nation College in Lawton utilize the Internet for everything from conducting extensive research for reports to creating high-tech graphics for movies and advertisements. Currently, Internet projects can be time-consuming for students, due to slow connection times for Internet users without access to Oklahoma’s high-speed networks. That will soon change thanks to a new network designed to offer high-speed broadband services to rural and underserved Oklahoma. This network, the Oklahoma Community Network (OCAN), reached its year-two construction milestone July 31, 2012, and construction of the network is now 88 percent complete.
OCAN is a partnership among the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE), the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. In August 2010, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), awarded Oklahoma a $74 million grant to fund the OCAN project and expand broadband services across the state.
Communities will access OCAN’s expanded network through OneNet, a division of OSRHE and Oklahoma’s only statewide Internet service provider. Educational institutions, health care providers, public services and nonprofits will have the opportunity to connect to the network through OneNet. In addition, local telecommunications providers can partner with OCAN to extend services to the private sector. Through these public-private partnerships, OCAN will provide opportunities for small businesses and spur economic growth in Oklahoma’s rural communities.
“In today’s knowledge-based society, our students, from kindergarten through higher education, need access to technology that supports and enables their learning,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “OCAN offers that access, bringing Oklahoma’s rural schools, colleges and universities the technology they need to stay competitive in today’s economy.”
OCAN’s expanded broadband network will encompass 1,005 miles, reaching 35 Oklahoma counties, which is good news for the students at Comanche Nation College. Not only will students be able to complete their work faster, but the new network will enable the college to upgrade its technology. With experience using the latest technology, students will be better prepared to enter tomorrow’s workforce.
“We will be able to give students state-of-the-art equipment to use, so when they go out in the workforce, they will have experience with what employers expect them to have the knowledge to use,” said Paula Lemons, director for Comanche Nation College. “We strive to introduce them to the latest technology that we can afford and our system will handle, so this upgrade will put us up on the next level to offer them more.”
The new network will connect 33 community institutions, including state colleges, universities, hospitals and local libraries, to the state’s existing networks. These connections will be vital to advancing economic development and improving educational, public health and safety services in Oklahoma’s rural communities.
Mary Hurley Hospital in Coalgate is one of the community institutions. Matt Balliett, the hospital’s director, says Internet speeds and connectivity have suffered greatly due to an aging network and the hospital’s rural location. The upgraded network will enable new efficiencies for the entire hospital.
“For the many departments we have that rely on an Internet connection for their day-to-day responsibilities, the increased bandwidth and reliability of the connection will allow our users to do their jobs much faster and more efficiently,” Balliett said.
Several state agencies currently operate technology networks throughout Oklahoma, including each of the project partners and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. OCAN bridges these disparate networks into an aligned network reaching remote areas of the state not served by current networks.
“Three years ago, the state of Oklahoma recognized the need to expand our current networks to reach all areas of the state with high-speed broadband services,” said Oklahoma’s Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit. “We are now just a year away from seeing this goal become a reality for our state’s rural communities.”
With 88 percent of the OCAN project completed, construction is on schedule for the network to be fully operational by July 31, 2013.
“The Department of Transportation is not only a necessary partner in the routing and construction of this new network, but many of our remote facilities and operations will enjoy enhanced Internet access and network connectivity,” said ODOT’s Director of Capitol Programs Tim Gatz. “When fully operational, OCAN will have an important role in helping us take full advantage of the benefits and efficiencies offered by advancements in transportation business, asset management, communications, and traffic operations technologies and software.”
“The build out of the Oklahoma Community Network is a project that Oklahoma can be proud of,” said Sonja Wall, OneNet’s OCAN program manager. “It is exciting to know that this network will ensure that Oklahoma’s rural communities have the same opportunities for technological advancement as the metropolitan areas.”
For more information on OCAN, contact Wall at (888) 566-3638.
Media Contact: April Goode
Editors Note: A list of OCAN community anchor institutions follows this release
Community Anchor Institution – City – County
CLEET – Ada – Pontotoc County
East Central University – Ada – Pontotoc County
Western Oklahoma State College – Altus – Jackson County
University Center of Southern Oklahoma – Ardmore – Carter County
Atoka Memorial Hospital – Atoka – Atoka County
Mary Hurley Hospital – Coalgate – Coal County
Cameron University – Duncan – Stephens County
Duncan Public Library – Duncan – Stephens County
DPS-Highway Patrol Troop HQ – Durant – Bryan County
Southeastern Oklahoma State University – Durant – Bryan County
Redlands Community College – El Reno – Canadian County
DPS-Highway Patrol Troop HQ – Enid – Garfield County
Northern Oklahoma College – Enid – Garfield County
Northwestern Oklahoma State University – Enid – Garfield County
Choctaw Hospital – Hugo – Choctaw County
Southeastern Oklahoma State University – Idabel – McCurtain County
Cameron University – Lawton – Comanche County
Comanche Nation College – Lawton – Comanche County
Lawton Indian Hospital-Indian Health – Lawton – Comanche County
Eastern Oklahoma State College – McAlester – Pittsburgh County
Carl Albert State College – Poteau – LeFlore County
Carl Albert State College – Sallisaw – Sequoyah County
Southwestern Oklahoma State University – Sayre – Beckham County
Seiling Community Hospital – Seiling – Dewey County
Seminole State College – Seminole – Seminole County
Gordon Cooper Technology Center – Shawnee – Pottawatomie County
Connors State College – Warner – Muskogee County
Jefferson County Hospital – Waurika – Jefferson County
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College – Weatherford – Custer County
Southwestern Oklahoma State University – Weatherford – Custer County
Eastern Oklahoma State College – Wilburton – Latimer County
Northwestern Oklahoma State University – Woodward – Woodward County
Woodward Hospital – Woodward – Woodward County