Connected Nation

Let's Get Digital: Why the pulse of America's Heartland depends on internet access

May 18, 2023 Jessica Denson Season 4 Episode 13
Connected Nation
Let's Get Digital: Why the pulse of America's Heartland depends on internet access
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On this episode of Connected Nation, we head into the Heartland for the “Let’s Get Digital: Oklahoma Broadband Tour” – an 18-stop internet listening tour.

You’ll  hear from those in far eastern Oklahoma about their unique broadband needs AND find out what state officials with the Oklahoma Broadband Office plan to do with all that feedback.

Related links:

Oklahoma Broadband Office website -

“Let’s Get Digital: Oklahoma Broadband Tour” -


Jessica Denson, Host (00:03):

This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods.


On today's podcast, we head into the heartland - for the Let's Get Digital Oklahoma Broadband tour, an 18 stop internet listening tour.


You'll hear from those in far eastern Oklahoma about their unique broadband needs. And find out what state officials with the Oklahoma Broadband office plan to do with all that feedback. I'm Jessica Denson and this is Connected Nation.


 I am at a local community center in Poteau, Oklahoma. <laugh>. Am I saying that right? Yes. Yes. And I am with Beth Tucker, who is a local resident in Cameron, Oklahoma. Beth, nice to see

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (00:55):

You. Well thank you. Thank you. Thank

Jessica Denson, Host (00:57):

You for joining me. Uh, tell me why was it important for you to be here today?

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (01:01):

Okay. I live in a rural area and our internet service is not real quick and my husband's a disabled veteran and we do a lot of um, zoom calls and there's times that I just have to leave and go to my daughter's house. So we have internet and I'm just looking forward to this coming in and hopefully we can get faster.

Jessica Denson, Host (01:26):

Yeah, it's really become a new time where people realize it's not a privilege to have this access. So for your husband, you said he was disabled vet. You say you do a lot of Zoom calls. Is that for telehealth?

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (01:36):

Yes, with the va since Covid, a lot of the stuff now is over our computers or phones. So we have a lot of meetings, uh, that we do with the va, uh, for that reason.

Jessica Denson, Host (01:50):

And which branch did he serve?

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (01:51):

Navy. Navy.

Jessica Denson, Host (01:53):

Thank you for his service. Thank him for us. Um, tell me what's it like living in Cameron, Oklahoma? Explain to someone who doesn't live there, why it's a great place to live.

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (02:02):

Well, we live in the rural area, so it's kind of quiet up there and um, I love it. I came from a city in Pennsylvania and uh, it was quite a shock <laugh> to move to this little town, you know? And um, when I first came here, we didn't even have phones, you know, that's how rural  it was.

Jessica Denson, Host (02:24):

So you said your daughter, where does she live? Does she live close back in

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (02:27):


Jessica Denson, Host (02:28):

So where is that right?

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (02:29):

15 miles. Um, when you go over to Rock Island, Oklahoma, you turn right and just keep, you'll end up in Hackett right before Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Jessica Denson, Host (02:40):

It's a very beautiful place. When I was driving around here, a lot of hills, a lot of trees. Um, is that one of the reasons you feel like it's a lot of people live here because it's so beautiful?

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (02:50):

Oh yeah. My husband's from Cameron. Um, I'm in the military too, or I was, and I met him in Little Creek, Virginia, and he brought this little city girl <laugh> out to this rural area and it, it, it's beautiful, you know, I love the country life and

Jessica Denson, Host (03:09):

Um, well thank you for your service too. I didn't know, I didn't know that I would've said that before. Uh, so what do you hope comes from all of this?

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (03:17):

I'm hoping for the, you know, faster internet and uh, cuz there's a lot of people in our area that don't have good internet, so it would be very nice if it could come to our rural area.

Jessica Denson, Host (03:30):

Well, thank you Beth. I really appreciate you.

Beth Tucker, Cameron, OK Resident (03:32):

Well thank you very much.

Jessica Denson, Host (03:34):

I am now with Tammy Parker and Mike Clark who are both at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. Uh, Mike is the director and Tammy is an agent. And, uh, one thing that I really wanna talk with you both about is how important broadband access is to farmers. Cuz I think there's this misnomer or misunderstanding rather, that people in rural areas don't necessarily want or need it.

Mike Clark, Director, OK Farm Bureau (03:58):

Well, on the farming side, uh, the pivots, the irrigation systems, we have the pivots now they run off of wifi. You can do everything from your phone. You don't have to go out and change switches or buttons or anything like that. Most of our tractors are gpsd. Uh, they're computerized. So it's very important for precision planning, for precision spraying. It's cost effective for the the farmer

Jessica Denson, Host (04:22):

And just being somebody from a rural area. Tammy and I were talking just a moment ago, just even watching a baseball game could be difficult, right?

Tammy Parker, Agent, OK Farm Bureau (04:29):

Yes, yes. When they call the play before it even happens, it's kind of frustrating, you know. So

Jessica Denson, Host (04:35):

Tell tell our listeners what the areas that you live in and you as well might,

Tammy Parker, Agent, OK Farm Bureau (04:41):

I live in a little community called Collington. It's close to Ke Lake. We do have internet. It's just above dial up and um,

Jessica Denson, Host (04:50):

You can't do a lot with that nowadays.

Tammy Parker, Agent, OK Farm Bureau (04:51):

No, no. And I, you know, I I tend to work a lot from home and I need that. So, um, looking forward to getting some help there.

Jessica Denson, Host (05:02):

And Mike, for you, where, what area of the state do you

Mike Clark, Director, OK Farm Bureau (05:05):

Live in? I live in community called Ward. Um, be Northern and Floor County. Um, we're the same, same way. We don't have any internet access there. It'd be nice to have it. We do a lot of Zoom calls being on the state board, uh, send a lot of files, you know, so I have to go somewhere else to send them. Uh, a lot of times my, I got a daughter that lives in Texas, I actually have to send her stuff and pictures and she puts it in JPEGs for me because we can't even get it to, to uh, upload JPEGs to send to someone. And then when she puts it together, she emails it to whoever I needed emailed to.

Jessica Denson, Host (05:41):

And do you think there became much more of an understanding of the need in rural areas following the pandemic? Just from the isolation that everybody experienced

Tammy Parker, Agent, OK Farm Bureau (05:50):

Of Yes, of course. I mean, you know, with all the students at home using the internet and people working from home, it, it showed how, how bad our internet really is in the rural area.

Jessica Denson, Host (06:03):

And Mike, what is something that you think people don't quite understand about the farming community versus, uh, an urban area?

Mike Clark, Director, OK Farm Bureau (06:12):

They don't understand how much we do depend on the internet for what we do for a living. Uh, because it's a different society now. We, uh, at my farm we do a lot of custom, uh, square bales and if it wasn't for Facebook or some way to promote it, we wouldn't have the customer base we have.

Jessica Denson, Host (06:31):

And is yours a multi-generational farm

Mike Clark, Director, OK Farm Bureau (06:33):

Or No, I'm, I'm a first generation farmer.

Jessica Denson, Host (06:36):

What made you go into farming?

Mike Clark, Director, OK Farm Bureau (06:37):

Uh, I actually worked for a farmer when I was growing up as a kid. Now my, both of my grandfathers farmed a little bit when they were younger. Uh, but none of my family did, uh, none of their kids farm.

Jessica Denson, Host (06:49):

Uh, that's, that's interesting. That's, you don't see a lot of first generation farmers as much as you used to in what, 50 years ago even, right? Correct. Um, so today the Oklahoma broadband office had this special thing, let's get digital Oklahoma broadband. Um, what did you learn and what do you hope comes from it? I'll start with you Tammy.

Tammy Parker, Agent, OK Farm Bureau (07:08):

Um, I learned that there's a lot more people than just us that need help and, and they're working toward getting us the help we need. So.

Jessica Denson, Host (07:17):

And what, what do you hope comes from it?

Tammy Parker, Agent, OK Farm Bureau (07:19):

Uh, better internet <laugh> a lot better. A lot better internet.

Jessica Denson, Host (07:23):

And what about you Mike? What did you learn today that you weren't maybe expecting or you are kind of like nodding your head? Yeah, that all makes sense. And what do you hope comes from it?

Mike Clark, Director, OK Farm Bureau (07:31):

Well, I kind of knew what the spill was cause I've been involved with it for about the next last nine months. Uh, what I'm hoping is same thing Tammy said, I'm hoping we come up with an inter internet access that's compatible to what we need.

Jessica Denson, Host (07:43):

I am now sitting with Sam and Janet Ingle. Why did you come today?

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (07:47):

Because we have horrible internet service and we thought we might be able to get some help. Whenever I saw the email or however I got it or not, it was in the paper I think actually. But we thought maybe it could help us here. And they have, they've answered a lot of questions.

Jessica Denson, Host (08:02):

Why was it important for you to have

Sam Ingle, Farmer (08:05):

Access's? For our business, our uh, up blueberry farm, we do a lot of advertising and posting so people know what we got.

Jessica Denson, Host (08:18):

So tell me what your farm is. It's uh, if I've got your email right, Creekside Berry Farm,

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (08:23):

Correct? Yes. It's one mile west of La Floro, Oklahoma.

Jessica Denson, Host (08:26):

And what do you guys, do you grow there, do you have a ranch or what is it that you do there?

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (08:31):

We grow blueberries and a few strawberries. So,

Jessica Denson, Host (08:35):

Uh, what do you feel like you learned today?

Sam Ingle, Farmer (08:39):

Learned how bad our service really is compared to what other people have.

Jessica Denson, Host (08:43):

In a perfect world. What would happen after today?

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (08:47):

Oh, we'd be in heaven with as far as internet goes, you know, because we could do so much more and you know, especially for the farm because we do take, um, what do they call it, we take cards, credit cards to pay Uhhuh, <affirmative>, you know, and stuff. And we do some of the tribal vouchers and everything and you have to have internet for it. And so it would make our job a lot easier on the farm for sure.

Jessica Denson, Host (09:14):

Would it just help, do you think that's something that allows misunderstand that farmers may not, we, somebody living in an urban area might think farmers don't need this, they don't have to have it, but there's a lot of reasons. There's credit cards, like you said, if you're selling stuff, but there's also other things that farms use that for. Am I correct in that or am I just guessing? You are

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (09:32):


Sam Ingle, Farmer (09:33):

<laugh>, we, uh, just yesterday we used it to look up a part for a tractor. It's just that simple and

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (09:44):

We pay bills with it too. And, and actually I know this doesn't really have anything to do with the farm, but keeping, helping keep in touch with our family and friends,

Jessica Denson, Host (09:53):

I think that one of the things that the pandemic exposed is the social social isolation. A lot of people felt right? Yes. Yeah. So being able to talk to your, do you have kids or grandchildren?

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (10:04):

Yes, we do.

Jessica Denson, Host (10:06):

So to be able to be in connection with them helps.

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (10:09):

It does. It does. Because none of, they all live at least three hours away, you know, and so,

Jessica Denson, Host (10:14):

So so explain to somebody who didn't grow up in this area. Why, why is it a great place to live?

Sam Ingle, Farmer (10:22):

Well, we're pretty free to do whatever we want with our land, uh, the water resources that we have. And, uh, if I want to go outside and yell real loud I can and not disturb anybody,

Jessica Denson, Host (10:39):

Well I might try that before I leave. Just go outside and yell real loud. <laugh>.

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (10:43):

Yes, cuz I, I had to used to have to use a pillow over my face. <laugh>. <laugh>.

Jessica Denson, Host (10:48):

Well, <laugh> well what would you like to see happen after today? First I'll let you go Sam and then you Janet.

Sam Ingle, Farmer (10:56):

I would like to see, uh, this developed and next week wouldn't be too soon. <laugh>

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (11:04):

The same. I would and I would like to see it spread everywhere, you know, cuz almost everybody needs internet for connections, telehealth, you know, lots of things, you know, like he said, looking up parts for equipment and all. And the most important though is keeping in touch with families, you know, cuz it's face, FaceTime, whatever is awesome, you know, for that.

Jessica Denson, Host (11:29):

Well, thank you both. I really appreciate you.

Janet Ingle, Farmer  (11:31):

Thank you. Thank you.

Jessica Denson, Host (11:34):

Poto was just the fourth stop on a listening tour that will make stops in 18 communities over the next two months. The Oklahoma broadband office will use input from residents, business owners, tribal nations, internet service providers and others gathered during the listening tour, as well as a separate tribal to develop a five year plan for expanding and improving internet access in the state. It's truly a history making effort to improve access to broadband and related technologies across the sooner state. We'll continue to closely track the, let's get digital Oklahoma Broadband tour and bring you updates as we can. In the meantime, I've included links to the Oklahoma Broadband office and the tour stops in the description of this podcast. I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and wanna know more about us, head to connected or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.


Introduction to podcast
Meet Beth Tucker
Living in a rural area
What Beth hopes happens next
Oklahoma Farm Bureau Director and Agent
Why farmers need internet access
Tammy Parker on her terrible internet access
Mike Clark on why he needs better internet
What others get wrong about rural areas
Meet Sam and Janet Ingle
Social isolation is a big problem
"I can yell real loud if I want to"
What the state plans to do with the input