The start of the New Year is a time of reflecting on the past while looking toward the future. This year is exceptionally special because OneNet is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
In the early 90s, when broadband wasn’t even on the radar yet, former state Sen. Ben Robinson formulated the beginning of OneNet with the idea to successfully and efficiently connect schools in Oklahoma. OneNet was established as a division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and began operations in 1996. Then and now, OneNet operates interdependently with higher education.
When I began my journey with OneNet in 1997, our focus was clear—give rural communities in Oklahoma the same opportunities to broadband access as those in urban areas. Over the last 20 years, our focus has never wavered, and I am proud to say our spirit of innovation has propelled us into a presence in all 77 counties in our state.
While we look back on where we’ve come from, we can’t help but to be excited about what the future holds. 2016 is already shaping up to be a promising year. We’re looking to empower Oklahoma communities by continuing to provide higher bandwidth options to K-12 schools through our partnerships with the private sector. In addition, we’re working to meet the ever-growing bandwidth needs of our state’s higher education institutions. Part of this empowerment is achieved through advancing new technologies.
One technology we’re advancing is software-defined networking (SDN), which supports big data movement for the research community. For instance, researchers at Oklahoma institutions can soon programmatically build their own virtual network connections to research laboratories across the country. Partnerships with research organizations provide cyberinfrastructure funds, which build both integrated and dedicated SDN platforms throughout the state.
Another important area we’re focused on is identifying solutions to security challenges. As technology advances, we see an increase in security threats, which we’re working to mitigate. These are all just brief examples of how we strive to stay ahead of the technological innovation in our communities.
That same spirit of innovation that is prevalent in our past and is propelling us into the future has also broadened our reach. What began as connecting schools in Oklahoma has now expanded to connecting all public higher education organizations in the state, career technology centers, hospitals, clinics, state, federal and local government, tribal agencies, nonprofits and research organizations.
OneNet began as a hub-and-spoke infrastructure with capacity of 45 Mbps. We have now grown into the most robust network in the state. With speeds up to 100 Gbps, we’re now able to reach every corner of Oklahoma. That’s 100,000 times faster than conventional broadband.
Our 20 years of service are not only about high speed broadband but also about reinvesting back into communities in Oklahoma. We have made great economic strides by promoting growth in these communities through our public-private partnerships. Last year, we paid telecommunications companies $10.8 million to connect customers to our network. These dollars support local broadband services across our state.
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of celebrating our anniversary is celebrating our customers and partners. OneNet would not be successful without the support of both. Because of the support of state and local community leaders we have been able to maintain a strong presence in the state. Because of our strong partnerships with the private sector, we’re able to reach the most rural and under served areas of Oklahoma.
So for that, we say thank you. Thank you to our partners. Thank you to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Thank you to our customers. Thank you to our loyal friends and supporters. I will find joy in looking back on this year of celebration in another 20 years.