Nebraska released a broadband plan Nov. 7 that aims to make faster broadband service more universally available to the state’s households by 2020.
Over the past three years, Nebraska has seen a large increase in the availability of broadband, with 99.5 percent of Nebraskans now having access to service with download speeds of greater than 10 Mbps. Broadband adoption has also grown, with 82 percent of Nebraska households now subscribing to broadband service, according to a report released late last month from the Nebraska Information Technology Commission.
State officials, however, have issued a new set goals and recommendations aimed at having broadband service of 25 Mbps download speed available to 90 percent of the state’s households — and 1 Gbps service available to 25 percent of households — by 2020. The state also outlined plans to reach a goal of having 90 percent of households subscribe to broadband over the same period.
“Broadband is important to Nebraska’s businesses and communities,” Lt. Gov. John Nelson, who chairs the Nebraska Information Technology Commission, said in a statement.“This plan builds on Nebraska’s successes in stimulating investment in Nebraska’s telecommunications infrastructure and encouraging the use of broadband in businesses, agriculture, health care, education, libraries, local government, and public safety entities. Additionally, the plan highlights the need to encourage more youth to pursue careers in information technology.”
The plans includes 10 recommendations that state agencies can take to improve broadband use across the state such as supporting the use of broadband technologies in business and the state’s large agriculture sector and the use of broadband in education.
In 2013, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an international broadband expert company, conducted a survey of Nebraska businesses on their use of the Internet. Respondents to the survey indicated that 25 to 45 percent of revenue came from the Internet.
“Broadband is an important component to the overall success of Nebraska,” said Brenda Decker, Nebraska’s chief information officer, in the release. “By continuing to deploy broadband and utilize new technology, Nebraska continues to experience great successes in a vast array of areas that positively impact the lives of our citizens.”
Mobile connections also are becoming increasingly important to residents and businesses, with more than 80 percent of Nebraska businesses currently using smartphones. Although mobile broadband data coverage is improving in Nebraska, mobile coverage in some areas of rural Nebraska is still a challenge.
Broadband deployment overall is more of a challenge in Nebraska, which ranks 43rd in population density, with only two cities having more than 100,000 residents.
With a large part of the nation’s 1.8 million residents living in rural areas, the infrastructure needed to bring broadband to all corners of the state is not as easily in place as it is in places like the East Coast where residents live closer together. In many ways, that makes the need for broadband more important for places like Nebraska as it allows residents to connect to the world without being in a highly populated area.
The development of a state broadband plan is the culmination of a five-year broadband mapping and planning initiative funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Partners in the Nebraska Broadband Initiative include the Nebraska Information Technology Commission, Nebraska Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the nonprofit AIM Institute.
Among the top recommendations:
· Encourage investment in Nebraska’s telecommunications infrastructure.
· Enhance the capacity of local communities to address broadband development.
· Encourage the development of a skilled IT workforce.
· Support innovation and entrepreneurship.
· Support the use of broadband technologies in businesses and agriculture.
· Support the development of libraries as community anchor institutions.
· Support the use of broadband in education and health care.
· Support the use of broadband by government and public safety entities.
· Support efforts to attract new residents and retain youth.
· Increase digital literacy and broadband access to the Internet.