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Nebraska gets another $5.6 million for broadband expansion

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Nebraska received another $5.6 million in federal funding to devote to broadband expansion.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced via a press release Tuesday that the state had received the money through two grants from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to develop strategic plans to expand Nebraska’s broadband service.

Roughly $5 million of the new funding comes from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, with the remaining $600,000 coming from the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program. Both grant programs were created via the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed a year ago.

Ricketts credited the working group he created earlier this year, Connect Nebraska, for applying for the grants. 

Nebraska will use the BEAD grant to generate a state broadband map, set up outreach activities to stakeholders statewide, and enable the Nebraska Public Service Commission to hire more staff. The other grant will be used to build a plan to secure internet connections statewide, and promote technology like telehealth and precision agriculture.

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“Now that we have received planning funds for both the Digital Equity Program and the BEAD Program, we can begin the next phase in our plan to connect every Nebraskan,” said Patrick Redmond, state broadband coordinator, in the press release.

Nebraska has already received millions from the federal government to expand broadband access. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Treasury approved $87.7 million for Nebraska to increase broadband internet access to an estimated 21,000 homes and businesses.

State officials expect up to $100 million of federal dollars still to come to support broadband infrastructure, according to the press release.

All federal funding Nebraska has received so far comes from the federal infrastructure bill, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden last November. It received mixed support from Nebraska's all-Republican congressional delegation. U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and Rep. Don Bacon supported the legislation, while Sen. Ben Sasse, Rep. Adrian Smith and then-Rep. Jeff Fortenberry voted against it.

Expanding broadband access has been a priority among state lawmakers since at least 2018, with the creation of the Rural Broadband Task Force. Since then, Ricketts has signed multiple pieces of legislation allocating over $150 million to develop broadband infrastructure and connect nearly 48,000 households.

“In today’s digital world, broadband connectivity is basic infrastructure,” Ricketts said in the press release. “No matter the distance Nebraskans live from a city, they should have access to the online tools they need to live, learn and do business.”



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