Nebraska Legislature relies on flawed data to allocate broadband funding

Release Date: 

01/22/2019

Contact(s): 

Johnathan Hladik, policy director, johnathanh@cfra.org, 402.687.2100 ext. 1028; or Rhea Landholm, brand marketing and communications manager, rheal@cfra.org, 402.687.2100 ext 1025

LYONS, NEBRASKA – 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 per year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) collects broadband access data through Form 477 from internet service providers. A fact sheet released today highlights how reliance upon 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 Johnathan Hladik, policy director and author of the fact sheet. “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.”

Internet service providers report access by Census block. There are 11,078,297 Census blocks across the nation, 3,200 of which span areas larger than Washington, D.C.

“Collecting service information on a Census block scale is a problem for rural residents,” Hladik said. “If one household in an expansive Census block has access to broadband, the whole block is reported as served. This doesn’t help your children complete their school assignments or help you start and grow your small business.”

In addition, Form 477 allows internet service providers to report an entire Census block as served if the provider claims they could do so without “an extraordinary commitment of resources”—a phrase with no official definition, according to Hladik.

“Neighboring states have taken action to update data and bring broadband access to rural areas,” he said. “With LB 549, the Nebraska Legislature can invest in the state’s rural economies by improving broadband service mapping and ensuring access to all residents.”

To view the fact sheet, “Mapping prosperity: A flawed method of evaluating Nebraska’s broadband access,” visit cfra.org/publications/MappingProsperityFactSheet. Share your broadband story using #ConnectNebraska.