Nebraska may use grant program to expand rural broadband | Regional Government

It would also create a “challenge process” for internet companies, allowing them to qualify for grant money if they install internet with minimum download speeds of 100 megabytes per second and upload speeds of 100 megabytes per second, which would easily be capable of streaming high-definition movies from multiple devices at the same time. Companies would also have to complete the project within 18 months and repay the grant money if tests later show that they failed to meet the speed requirements.

Some lawmakers questioned whether the proposal would benefit farms and other remote areas. Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard said current broadband maps show coverage in areas of the state where it doesn’t actually exist.

“I’m just wondering how much of this is going to reach outside of a town or village,” he said.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue said his group’s members strongly support the measure, which they see as critical to help them run their farms.

“We believe rural areas should have access to affordable broadband, just like urban areas do,” he said.

Lack of internet access was a key weakness identified in a 2019 “Blueprint Nebraska” report that examined steps the state can take to improve its economy and attract workers, said former state Sen. Jim Smith, the executive director of the group that conducted the report.