New high-speed internet network expands to rural Oklahoma

Published: Aug. 9, 2013 at 12:19 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2013 at 2:30 PM CDT
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Lawton_Starting Thursday, much of rural Oklahoma is saying farewell to their dial-up internet and hello to high speed--something they were never able to do until now.

The completion of the Oklahoma Community Anchor Network, or OCAN, was announced at Cameron University.
There, project partners detailed OCAN's expanded network that stretches over one thousand miles while reaching 35 Oklahoma counties---connecting many of the state's colleges, universities, and hospitals.

Even if you don't have home internet, in some shape or form, the project's partners say you will be affected for the better. Right now, over 30 businesses, schools, universities, or city entities are now recognized as community anchor institutions.

That means they are able to piggyback onto the fiber optic lines laid by OCAN, giving them faster internet. Faster internet means faster service for you while at the hospital, at a school, or even for drivers along Oklahoma highways.

Through fiber optics, Higher Education Chief Information Officer Von Royal says OCAN is opening the floodgates to technology.

"This new pipe, this new hose, has a much bigger opening so that much bigger pieces of data can get through.  Before, the same information would have gone through, but it was going at a slower rate," said Royal.

Chancellor Glen Johnson, of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education says the reason for their excitement is simple. The state now has a leg up, when it comes to technology, providing new resources in rural areas that couldn't be previously be reached.

"It's critical if Oklahoma is going to be competitive in this global economy we participate in," Johnson said. "It will access medical records quicker, provide databases at libraries quicker. It will provide students the opportunity to hook up and be connected, not only in this country but globally, and it will happen at high speed. It's real-time cutting-edge."

Oklahoma Department of Transportation Deputy Director Tim Gatz says the road to completion was a tough one, but one even his customers and employees will benefit while on the road.

"Those digital message signs are often fiber-optic, so the expansion will allow us to employ more signs further out of the metro, and that's what we use to communicate directly with travelers
or in the office," Gatz said.  "When they(employees) are trying to use their computers, they have a hard time reading their email cause the bands are so narrow they just don't have enough connection."

Cameron University President Doctor John McArthur says the benefits to students and faculty are two-fold.

"Our students are taking at least one course through distance communication, TV, online, so it increases the speed and reach will improve the opportunity. What it does for the institution itself, it gives us a safe, off-site storage for our data to hold students' grades and financial aid information, which means, if we had a fire or tornado, that info is safe and secure elsewhere,"  said McArthur.

Chancellor Johnson said this long list of benefits would not have been made possible without teamwork.

"We had great cooperation, and I think one of the messages today is that the spirit of cooperation is alive and well within state government within the state of Oklahoma."

OCAN is a network comprised of several partners, including the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and was made possible through a $74 million federal grant.