Home Internet Nebraska ‘in a good position’ to deliver internet for all

Nebraska ‘in a good position’ to deliver internet for all

Nebraska is “in a good position” funding-wise to deliver broadband internet to the state’s unserved and underserved areas, opening opportunities in telehealth and precision agriculture, a federal official said last week.

Brendan Carr, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, spoke after attending a roundtable meeting on Tuesday hosted by U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., at the Greater Omaha Chamber downtown. State and industry representatives attended.

“A lot of other states are actually struggling,” Carr said. “They’re going to fall short of infrastructure dollars to deliver on the goal that we all have.”

But even if Nebraska is on the right track, extending internet across the state via fiber, fixed wireless and satellite systems could take several years, Fischer said.

“It moves slowly,” she said. “It’s a big investment. We want to make sure that the investment is made wisely.”

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Nebraska last year learned it would receive $405.3 million in federal money to extend broadband internet to areas where it’s not available or too slow.

The money comes from the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, which Congress authorized in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

The BEAD Program provides money for states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to utilize for broadband deployment, mapping, equity and adoption projects.

Before the roundtable, Fischer and Carr toured a Children’s Physicians clinic in Plattsmouth for a demonstration of the facility’s telehealth tools, which officials said have relied on the FCC’s Universal Service Fund for connectivity. The officials also visited a Cass County 911 call center to better understand how first responders keep communities connected in times of emergency.

Speaking after the roundtable, Fischer emphasized the importance of broadband internet to telemedicine in the state’s rural areas and also to precision agriculture in Nebraska.

“Agriculture is the economic engine of the state, so it’s important that we have connectivity all across the state,” she said.

Carr said tractors and combines “are effectively mini data centers right now.”

For years, he said, the challenge has been how to take the massive amount of data that a farmer can pull off the ground, from soil to water to imaging of plants, and send it to a data center to be computed to help increase yields and use fertilizer and other resources more efficiently.

It was common, he said, to see an old coffee mug full of USB drives on a farmer’s desk because the information couldn’t easily be sent to a data center.

“That’s where precision ag comes in, where you get that high-speed connection,” he said. “That data can be sent back, can be crunched, and then really be put in real time to productive use.”

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