Under current reporting methods, faulty data from internet service providers may leave thousands of rural Nebraska households without access to broadband internet, according to the Center for Rural Affairs.

Twice a year, the Federal Communications Commission collects broadband access data from internet service providers, using Form 477.

“Collecting service information on a Census block scale is a problem for rural residents,” according to Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs.

Form 477 allows internet service providers to report an entire Census block as “served” if one household has access to broadband, Hladik said.

“This doesn’t help your children complete their school assignments or help you start and grow your small business,” he said.

In fact, vast areas of rural Nebraska do not have broadband internet service.

There are 11,078,297 Census blocks across the nation, 3,200 of which span areas larger than Washington, D.C., he said.

This data has led to an overestimation of broadband access in rural Nebraska.

“Connectivity is the defining aspect of our 21st century economy, and many rural Nebraskans are being left out because of inaccurate service information,” said Hladik. “State and local governments are distributing resources based on inaccurate data. Under this approach, thousands of households already lacking broadband access will continue to be left behind.”

Hladik said neighboring states have taken action to update data and bring broadband access to rural areas, and he supports a bill in the Nebraska legislature — LB 549 — to do the same.

“The Nebraska Legislature can invest in the state’s rural economies by improving broadband service mapping and ensuring access to all residents,” he said.

To see Hladik’s fact sheet, “Mapping prosperity: A flawed method of evaluating Nebraska’s broadband access,” visit cfra.org/publications/MappingProsperityFactSheet.

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