Technology has shaped, and will continue to shape, the way that communities across Oklahoma power research, attract new businesses and advance education. Although metropolitan communities enjoy the resources and benefits technology has to offer, many communities still lack access to the broadband needed to support these initiatives. As a result, these communities find it difficult to keep pace with the healthcare opportunities, education initiatives and capital ventures that metropolitan areas enjoy.
Ponca City, Oklahoma, is one of these communities. The city is considered a micropolitan area—a city with a population more than 25,000 in a county with a population less than 50,000. Their community lacked access to adequate broadband connectivity, making it difficult for residents and businesses to participate in the digital age. In response, the city began looking for a broadband solution that would advance its technology initiatives and improve the quality of life for their citizens.
Community leaders partnered with the Oklahoma Community Anchor Network (OCAN) to develop and install a fiber to the home initiative across Ponca City. OCAN, which is operated and maintained by OneNet, is a system of high-speed fiber optic cable that spans 1,005 miles and connects 35 Oklahoma counties. The expansive network ensures that affordable high-speed internet options are made available to Oklahoma’s unserved and underserved communities.
Working together, OCAN and Ponca City installed a city-wide, all-optic fiber network that will provide residents and businesses with the high-speed internet access needed in today’s fast-paced digital landscape.
The high-speed network will be installed in five phases, starting in the middle of the city and working outwards. The homes and businesses located in phase one are connected and have been receiving services since July 2019. Customers have positively responded to faster network speeds and the city’s exceptional customer service. The all-optic fiber not only enables Ponca City to pursue healthcare and education initiatives, but it also serves as the foundation for economic growth and innovation in Ponca City.
“Fiber to the home not only provides communities a competitive edge when attracting new business, but it also allows existing businesses to stay where they are and expand their operations,” said Vonley Royal, OneNet’s executive director. “High-speed connectivity has also been proven to spur entrepreneurial ventures that bring innovation to the community.”
The cost savings provided by OCAN allowed the city to obtain enough capacity to ensure broadband availability. This additional broadband also increases redundancy and minimizes the chance of downtime, ensuring that Ponca City residents and businesses stay online during unexpected outages.
Although Ponca City is not new to the utilities market, this is the first utility project the city has pursued in more than 40 years, and the new all-optic fiber utility incorporates various aspects of design, engineering, planning and construction management. Ponca City’s Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer David Williams says that the many moving parts of the initiative presented some challenges, but that the interdepartmental collaboration between Ponca City’s officials made overcoming these challenges easier.
“Collaboration is critical when implementing a large-scale project such as the fiber to the home initiative,” says Williams. “The interdepartmental collaboration helped the city stay on track and minimize costs throughout the project.”
Staying on track and looking to the future, Ponca City plans to implement the remaining four phases of project, reaching every corner of the city. They will be ready to accept bids on phases two and three soon. Once all phases are completed, Williams says that the city hopes to turn its attention to underserved communities surrounding Ponca City’s city limits.
“If you draw a ring around Ponca City with a radius of two miles larger than the city limits, the population of Ponca City increases by nearly 50%,” says Williams. “This provides a tremendous potential customer base.”
As the bandwidth needs of the city continue to evolve, the all-optic fiber network will be able to handle future bandwidth speed improvements, such as upgrading from a 1Gbps to a 10Gbps network. The scalability of the fiber to the home initiative provides the growth potential needed to support new healthcare and educational initiatives while maintaining current business development.
Ponca City’s partnership with OCAN exemplifies how affordable high-speed broadband can shape the future of a community and improve the quality of life for its citizens. As communities look for direction in navigating the digital world, Ponca City serves as a model community working to close the digital divide.
Story by Meagan Leber, Strategic Communications Intern, Summer 2019