Five percent of households in the state rely on dial-up Internet, but more Nebraskans have broadband than the national average.
We are wired, at least when we compare ourselves with the rest of the country. That’s the word from a survey conducted in 2010 by the University of Nebraska Center for Applied Rural Innovation. Results of the survey, shared at a series of broadband forums making their way across the state, were a little surprising, but in a good way.
I came into this meeting believing that a vast group of rural Nebraskans were being left in the dust, without access to broadband. While there are still large sectors in varied regions in the state that still rely on dial-up service or have no Internet service at all, a large majority of households who replied to these surveys did have broadband service.
Broadband, for the purpose of this survey, consists of anything faster than dial-up. It could be DSL, wireless or satellite service. The survey tells us that 81% of Nebraskans have Internet access of some kind. Of that group, 76% have broadband service, compared to only 66% on average in the U.S. Five percent rely on dial-up service.
The disparity comes when we compare urban and rural households. Eight-two percent of metropolitan households have broadband, compared to just 70% in non-metro areas of the state. But we still fair better than general U.S. averages, where only 50% of rural households claim broadband service.
Everyone at the forum in Norfolk that I attended agreed that broadband Internet service was a key to economic development and educational opportunities, no matter where you live in the state. Of course, of the five percent who use dial-up service, some of them were quite happy with that service, because it costs less and it did what they wanted it to do. These folks were happy with checking a little weather and sending emails. But the vast majority of folks who use Internet for business and farm need much faster, more reliable service and they need to have access to it without it costing an arm and a leg.
The forums were informative to a varied group of folks who attended, including Internet providers, economic development staff, University of Nebraska Extension and USDA personnel, farmers and ranchers and small town business owners. These meetings are hosted by Nebraska Public Service Commission, Nebraska Information Technology Commission’s Community Council, Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the AIM Institute.
As we move forward on the farm and in our rural communities, fast Internet access is key to attracting new business and getting our information when we need it on the farm.
We’ll be writing more about broadband enhancements and mapping projects in future print issues of Nebraska Farmer.
I would encourage farmers and ranchers to attend more broadband forums as they are held in your region, representing the interests of agriculture and rural communities as broadband service is discussed and mapped out across the state.
For more information, contact UNL Extension educator, Connie Hancock at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a look at Nebraska's broadband mapping project.
Future forums are set for:
--North Platte in the Quality Inn Convention Center on Apr. 6
--McCook at Mid-Plains Enterprise Center on Apr. 7
--Lincoln Embassy Suites on Apr. 13
--Minden Opera House on Apr. 14
--Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce on Apr. 28