Rural communities could use broadband to grow

By Mark Metcalf, rural Sutton, Nebraska

Rural Nebraskans have finally got the attention of the Legislature in regard to broadband access. Legislative Bill 549, introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt of District 32, represents an important first step in expanding broadband to all areas of Nebraska. The bill aims to provide resources for an accurate mapping of current broadband service across the state, mapping that is long overdue.

Broadband access has become essential for people seeking medical advice, expanding a small business, or completing an education. For too many Nebraskans, however, broadband is unavailable—leaving those people unconnected to the wealth of information and economic opportunities that high-speed internet can offer. These unconnected Nebraskans are at a clear disadvantage.

In our community of Sutton, broadband access has been a critical resource for the community. It’s important for many things, from online banking, managing our small businesses, and for important training and resources for our volunteer fire and rescue department.

We know that many rural communities are finding it challenging enough to survive, even without having some of their populace cut off from modern modes of communication. I urge Sen. Curt Friesen, chair of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, to support Legislative Bill 549. It is a step forward that will help to connect all Nebraskans.

Feature photo: In Sutton, Nebraska, residents have used broadband internet for important training and resources for their volunteer fire and rescue department. Other fire and rescue personnel across Nebraska also use broadband for trainings, including the Seward Fire Department, pictured, at a fire in December 2016. | Photo by Rhea Landholm