Closing the Digital Divide
Oklahoma's digital divide was a problem long before the global pandemic fundamentally changed how we go about our daily lives. The events of the past year have only exacerbated and highlighted it.
Reliable, high-speed internet is an important - and sometimes singular - portal to basic necessities for economic and human development including healthcare, work, commerce and education. For far too many Oklahomans, connectivity remains out of reach, as do the opportunities accompanying it.
Tragically, lack of access and adoption disproportionately harms marginalized and rural communities who are most in need of the ladders of opportunity broadband can provide. This is particularly detrimental to students who have shifted to virtual learning over the last year. A 2020 report by Frontline and Oklahoma Watch found roughly one in four Oklahoma students do not have access to an internet connection.
Education provides the opportunity to an improved quality of life, and having high-speed internet service is as critical for today's education—whether virtual or in-person—as calculators and textbooks. While we can examine and applaud some of the efforts our schools have taken to turn lemons into lemonade during the pandemic, the underlying problem of broadband must be solved in order to provide all Oklahoma communities with education and opportunity.
It's easy for me or anyone else to pen these words. The challenge is in the implementation of an approach that taps the experience and wisdom of the private sector from years of innovating and building broadband infrastructure and coupling them with public-private partnerships to buildout broadband networks in areas without it.
The public interest in ensuring these areas are served is real. With the support of leadership in the domed building at 23rd and Lincoln and spreading out to local leadership in all 77 counties across the state, the public sector and business community can - together - make it a reality.
Oklahoma's private sector drives our economy. It creates jobs and serves as the bedrock of communities from Boise City to Broken Bow. And when unified, it moves the state forward.
IBC Bank is driven by community-minded service. We live and work where you do so it's important for us to join with other small and local businesses to advocate for Oklahomans to have better access to broadband. I encourage my colleagues in the business community to join in this effort that will create more opportunity and a stronger future for Oklahoma City and all the communities across this great state.
Bill Schonacher is the president and CEO of IBC Bank - Oklahoma and chair-elect of The State Chamber.
About IBC Bank-Oklahoma IBC Bank-Oklahoma is a member of International Bancshares Corporation (NASDAQ: IBOC), a $14 billion multi-bank financial holding company headquartered in Laredo, Texas, with 187 facilities and 282 ATMs serving 88 communities in Texas and Oklahoma. IBC Bank's slogan "We Do More" reflects the bank's dedication to the growth and success of the customers and the communities it has been serving since 1966. IBC Bank-Oklahoma has been serving the Sooner State since 2004 and Dallas since 2017. The bank has a retail branch network of 46 locations. MEMBER FDIC / INTERNATIONAL BANCSHARES CORPORATION. Follow our Facebook and Instagram page, @IBCBankWeDoMore. More information is available at ibc.com.