Bridging Nebraska's digital divide through funding and legislative opportunities

The expansion of internet access for rural Nebraska is the focus of a recently released grant funding opportunity and upcoming legislative hearings.

The internet is now one of the most basic modes of how people find employment, attend college, work, handle their finances, and receive medical care. However, especially in rural areas of the state, the internet is not available to be utilized in its full capacity. Nebraska’s Legislature and agencies are seeking to address the issue.

To provide opportunities for expanded, rural internet access, Nebraska’s Public Service Commission is accepting pre-applications for grants from the Nebraska Internet Enhancement Fund (NIEF). The application deadline is Nov. 10. Counties and municipalities are encouraged to apply for funding to deliver broadband internet where adequate service does not exist. The NIEF pre-application form and more information on project requirements are available at www.psc.nebraska.gov.

Increasing the provision of high speed internet in rural areas of the state will also be a topic addressed by members of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee during three hearings to be held across Nebraska later this month. Field hearings will be held in McCook on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at McCook Community College; Central City on Thursday, Nov. 30, at the city council chambers; and Lincoln on Friday, Dec. 1, at the State Capitol, Room 1113.

Hearing meetings are open to the public, and testimony is welcomed. Rural residents and community representatives are encouraged to participate. More information can be found on the Nebraska Legislature’s website, www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

Funding opportunities and legislative changes are key to the extension of internet access to all residents. The ability to expand broadband access in the state’s rural communities expands social and economic opportunities for Nebraskans. But, it will take partnerships, community action, and citizen participation to help close that divide.