Since 2019, almost $30 million has been spent on grants and other business incentives to improve broadband internet access in rural Nebraska.

More than 60 different projects brought broadband internet to over 17,000 rural Nebraska households in 2019. LB 388 was passed in 2021. It added another $20 million to the broadband grant program in 2021 and 2022.

In 2022, we passed LB 1024. Forty million of the money in this bill will be split between Congressional District 1 and 3 to help expand broadband internet in rural Nebraska.

The legislature has applied the term “unserved” to areas that don’t have access to at least 25 megabytes (MB) download and 3 megabytes upload.

“Underserved” areas are as those without access 100 MB download and 20 MB upload.

Roughly 10% of rural Nebraska falls into the “unserved” category today. When the legislature began working on this in 2018, roughly 40% of rural Nebraska was considered “unserved” back then, so progress has definitely been made.

I am proud of the work done by the legislature, the Public Service Commission and the Broadband Taskforce to bring fast internet to the many under-served communities in western Nebraska. Much of the credit for this goes to Sen. Kurt Friesen who finished his term in the legislature this year. He was the champion for this policy issue that will be hard to replace.

Much remains to be done.

I will continue to be a strong supporter of this issue until every corner of the state has access to high-speed, high-quality broadband internet service. Like electricity, internet has become ‘critical infrastructure’ to our communities.

Sparsely populated areas in Nebraska are often the last to receive a new technological advancement. A number of towns and counties in western Nebraska didn’t get electricity until after World War II.

Much of the new technology allowing family farmers and ranchers to increase efficiencies and boost their profits depends on a high-speed internet connection. Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Nebraska, yet many producers often struggle to use the new precision technology because they live somewhere without broadband internet.

Many Nebraskans learned during the China virus that fast, reliable internet is essential for people to work from home, take online classes, and for healthcare facilities to offer tele-medicine with patients who would otherwise have to travel considerable distances.

Nebraskans living in the western end of the state should have these same opportunities. I look forward to continuing to work on this important issue.

Sen. Tom Brewer represents much of the Nebraska Sandhills in the state legislature. Contact his office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.

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