Rural communities' future lies in internet access


Nebraska is a resilient state. Throughout the pandemic, many of us faced unprecedented challenges and obstacles. Whether it was postponing our usual gatherings to keep loved ones safe, transitioning our children to online learning, or moving our career from an office to the living room, our communities and businesses adapted and endured, and our economy has surpassed that of many other states, and the country as a whole, as a result. Industries from the traditionally strong agriculture sector to Nebraska’s “Silicon Prairie” are poised for growth.

Threatening the next chapter of the state’s economic evolution is a disappointing track record when it comes to internet access. Many Nebraskans, particularly those in rural areas, still lack access to reliable, high-speed internet. With billions allocated to upgrading the country’s internet in the federal infrastructure bill, the time is now for Nebraska’s leaders to prioritize making the right investments and choose fiber internet to support our future.

The “digital divide” affects communities across the country, with those in rural areas feeling the most acute pain. The Omaha World-Herald recently reported that an estimated 80,000 rural residents in Nebraska lack internet that delivers speeds of 25 megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload (25/3), which is the current federal definition of broadband, and nearly double that lack 100/100 speed which is what most consider adequate internet access today. The inability to utilize reliable, high-speed internet across our state not only leads to people using hills and cell phone hot spots for Zoom calls, but hurts our economic growth and development. With most industries, even farming, benefitting from increased digitization, we risk being left behind if our internet infrastructure isn’t upgraded.

To further Nebraska’s upward economic momentum, state leaders and local elected officials should choose the future of internet when it comes to allocating broadband funding – fiber. Fiber is the gold standard of internet connections and is what Nebraskans need to support an increasingly online world where we’re learning, shopping, and doing business.

The benefits of fiber internet vs. cable, copper, and wireless make it an obvious choice for our communities and economy. Fiber internet technology uses light to transmit information rather than electricity or radio waves. This makes its speed alone unparalleled, and quite literally light-years faster than other forms of internet. Fiber is also symmetrical, meaning you have the same upload and download speeds that create a better experience when kids are learning virtually, and parents need to take a conference call at the same time. And perhaps most importantly for many Nebraskans, especially those in rural areas, fiber is a technology we can depend on. No matter how far you are from town, or how many inches of snow may fall in the winter, fiber holds up against harsh conditions.

Residents and businesses from Seward County to Scottsbluff can help propel Nebraska’s economy forward into the digital global economy – if provided with the right tools. Investing in our internet infrastructure is a good first step, but it’s crucial that our elected officials choose the technology that provides faster speeds and a more reliable connection that holds up over time. With billions of state and federals funds likely to come available in the coming months, an investment in fiber is an investment in the future of Nebraska’s economy, and that’s a worthwhile one if you ask me.

broadband jank internet