Broadband Availability Increased Significantly 2010 - 2015

Cornhusker Economics August 3, 2016Broadband Availability Increased Significantly 2010-2015

Nebraska’s broadband vision is that residents, businesses, government entities, community partners, and visitors have access to affordable broadband service and have the necessary skills to effectively utilize broadband technologies. Nebraska Statewide Broadband Plan adopted 2014.

Two objectives were identified to support the vision:
  • To increase economic development opportunities, create good-paying jobs, attract and retain population, overcome the barriers of distance, and enhance quality of life in Nebraska by stimulating the continuing deployment of broadband technologies which meet the need for increasing connection speeds. 
  • To increase digital literacy and the widespread adoption of broadband technologies in business, agriculture, health care, education, government and by individual Nebraskans. 

The Landscape Has Changed
The Nebraska Broadband Map was launched in 2010 by the Nebraska Public Service Commission with information from broadband carriers. In May, an updated broadband map site was launched. Users can see what types of broadband have been deployed as well as the speeds available for geographic locations, from as granular as a point or address to an area as large as a county or region. Figure 1 highlights the significant change in broadband deployment since 2010 through December 2015.
Map showing broadband deployment in Nebraska by type
The broadband in Figure 1 tracks broadband over a period of time which is critical to inform policy makers in their decisions, users in finding broadband services and to ensure that all areas of the state have adequate broadband coverage. The State Broadband Plan also set speed benchmarks that include:
  • Broadband service of 25 Mbps down will be available to 90% of households by 2020. 
  • Broadband service of 1 Gbps down will be available to 25% of households by 2020.

Figure 2 highlights the broadband speed tiers over 25 Mbps, as reported by the broadband providers, through December 2015. The map shows that higher broadband speeds are available in many communities across Nebraska. Broadband providers have been working together and with communities to strengthen broadband capacity throughout the state.
map showing broadband speed across nebraska
Non-Metro Broadband Adoption Increased from 2014 to 2016
Broadband may be more available but are rural Nebraskans continuing to adopt these services? The 2016 Nebraska Rural Poll posed a series of broadband-related questions. Comparing the Rural Poll with a Household Broadband survey in 2014 finds that non-metro adoption has increased.

Over eight in ten rural Nebraskans subscribe to a high-speed internet service at home (such as cable, internet, DSL, fiber optic or satellite Internet service) other than a data plan on their cell phone.
  • 82% of non-metro Nebraskans subscribe to high-speed internet in 2016 compared to 73% in 2014 
  • 6% only use their cell phone data plan. 
  • 2% only use dial-up Internet service. 
  • 9% do not subscribe to any internet service and do not have a cell phone data plan.
Adoption has increased.

Satisfaction with Broadband Depends on Location
The Rural Poll also asked satisfaction questions regarding price, reliability and speed of broadband services. In non-metro Nebraska, satisfaction has decreased since 2014.
  • Satisfaction with price decreased from 44% in 2014 to 36% in 2016.
  • Satisfaction with reliability was 67% in 2014 and 59% in 2016.
  • Satisfaction with speed was 60% in 2014 and 57% in 2016. 
  • Overall satisfaction was 62.5% in 2014 and 57% in 2016. 

In 2016, those living outside of city limits were less satisfied than those living inside of city limits, mostly with their mobile Internet service (service through their cell phone or tablet). And, people living outside city limits near the smallest communities were the most dissatisfied with some features of their service.
  • Persons living outside city limits are less likely to be satisfied with reliability of mobile internet service, speed of mobile internet service, and coverage of mobile Internet service. However, there weren’t statistically significant differences between the two groups in overall satisfaction with mobile Internet service. 
  • Persons living outside city limits are less satisfied with the speed of their home internet service than those living inside city limits. This was the only difference between the two groups. 
  • Individuals living by the smallest communities are most dissatisfied. Within the persons living outside city limits, differences by community size are present for speed of mobile Internet service, price of home internet service, reliability of home Internet service, and overall home Internet service. In each case, people living by the smallest communities are most dissatisfied. 

The broadband maps (Figure 1 and Figure 2) show that there is limited availability of speeds higher than 25 Mbps outside of city limits. This could be a reason for some of the dissatisfaction. Non-metro areas may also be more dissatisfied as neighboring communities have been able to increase to more reliable and higher-speed broadband.

Full Nebraska Rural Poll focused on broadband

What Can Your Community/Region Do to Strengthen Broadband?
While broadband infrastructure and speed have increased overall in Nebraska, if you are living in an area that does not have adequate or affordable broadband, it does not take away frustrations. The maps show that the landscape continually changes. There has been more deployment since December 2015. Has your community/region documented demand?

Broadband-related development starts with community leadership. Forming a community/region technology committee with representatives of key sectors and institutions in a community, including local government, economic and community development organizations, businesses, the library, education, and health care is often the first step to leveraging broadband-related development. It is important to document the demand.

The Leveraging Broadband in Your Community workbook gives considerations and best practices that communities should explore in building broadband demand. Gothenburg, Nebraska is one example of a community that led a grass roots effort to attract higher speed internet services. A Gothenburg local banker, Nate Wyatt, discusses the importance of broadband to communities. He states, “that if you [community] don’t have it [high-speed internet], it is a severe handicap.”

Hear his comments during a broadband conference in this YouTube Video on importance and a second video on education. Key points include:
  • Bring decisions makers together 
  • Education is important 
  • Need to understand the industry and help to identify a business model
  • Educate businesses on how reliable, higher-speed internet can have an impact on productivity and their bottom line. 
  • Community members must learn the importance to the community (business, education, health care, and students studying at home). 

The Nebraska Information Technology Commission, the Public Service Commission and Nebraska Extension are also willing to help communities work through broadband issues. This can be done by helping to document demand or bringing together providers to meet with community members. The broadband initiative encourages communities to consider people living outside city limits in their efforts.

The Nebraska Legislature is Examining Telecommunications Services
Nebraska Legislature LR 538 is examining telecommunications services. Items that will be explored include the existing structure of regulations governing telecommunications services within Nebraska, incentives to encourage investment in broadband telecommunication infrastructure, and to explore the availability and quality of broadband telecommunications service. LR 538 was introduced by Senator Jim Smith, District 14, Chairperson of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

Contact your senator or the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee to learn more. 

About the Nebraska Broadband Initiative
Formed in 2009, the Nebraska Broadband Initiative has focused on increasing the adoption and utilization of broadband. Initiative partners include the University of Nebraska, Nebraska Public Service Commission, Nebraska Information Technology Commission, Nebraska Department of Economic Development and AIM. The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Act (NTIA) grant funded the initiative from January 2009 thru January 2015.

Contact for more information:
Nebraska Broadband Map:
Cullen Robbins, Nebraska Public Service Commission at 402-472-0230 or

Nebraska Rural Poll Broadband report:
Becky Vogt, UNL Department of Agricultural Economics, 402-750-1727 or

Community Planning:
Anne Byers, Nebraska Information Technology Commission, 402-471-3805,

Charlotte Narjes, UNL Ag Economics, 402-472-1724 or Connie Hancock, Nebraska Extension, 308-254-4455 or

The Nebraska Information Technology Commission is documenting the progress made on the Statewide Broadband Plan and recently launched a newsletter. One of the goals of the newsletter is to promote successful efforts around adoption and utilization of broadband.  May/June issue 
While much has happened, there is more to be done. Broadband deployment is costly and finding solutions to reach all Nebraskans is a challenge. Broadband providers and state leaders are working to identify ways to meet demand. Communities, businesses and those living outside of city limits need to document demand and understand how new technologies can be utilized to attract and retain new residents, improve quality of life and increase community & economic vitality.


Charlotte Narjes
Department of Agricultural Economics
University of Nebraska-Lincoln