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On April 17, 2018, Governor Ricketts signed LB 994 into law which created the Rural Broadband Task Force. The core responsibilities of this task force include reviewing broadband issues in relation to feasibility, ratification, and cost-effectiveness. They released their findings in October of this year; rural broadband speeds have significantly increased since 2016, but present new woes.
The legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee is paying close attention to this issue. We are trying to encourage the build-out to rural Nebraska by telecom companies that have territorial jurisdiction. We are also fully engaged with the Public Service Commission of Nebraska to make sure those internet providers are meeting their goals. There are significant federal and state matching funds available to support the build-out to rural Nebraska. An estimated one in ten rural Nebraskans reports extensive limitations from their home internet service provider. Modern advancements are an aid in resolving this limitation; e.g. fixed wireless using mid-band spectrums like 5G, low earth orbit satellites like StarLink, and TV white space. Currently, 89% of Nebraskans have access to fixed broadband of at least 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up compared to 63% of rural Nebraskans. Rural areas tend to be charged up to 37% more on average than their urban counterparts who have faster speeds, wider coverage, and little to no data caps.
Our schools have made significant investments in computers for our students and we need to make sure they can fully utilize those purchases by making sure internet access outside of the school campus is sufficient. This disparity creates an inconsistent environment for students; those who are unable to complete homework from home and those who have access. This is due to a number of issues: having no internet provider in the area, slow speeds, or data caps. Libraries in rural areas are able to ease some student woes. Unfortunately, not enough of these institutions apply for E-Rate funding. This is due to the difficulty of the application process and concerns about filtering content for students.
Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is email@example.com and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.