New resources available to help communities address broadband development

Recently, news headlines have been highlighting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new definition of broadband and the importance to community vitality of adopting high bandwidth. The FCC sharply revised its benchmark definition of broadband Internet service. The new definition increases download speeds to more than six times faster than the previous standard. The new definition of broadband raises the minimum download speeds needed from 4Mbps to 25Mbps, and the minimum upload speed from 1Mbps to 3Mbps.

Most Nebraska Public Libraries would be ecstatic to have access to 25/3 bandwidth speeds. The reality is these speeds are not commonly available in rural areas in Nebraska. There is good news related to rural bandwidth speeds over the past few years. Broadband upgrade was a focus of the Library Builds Nebraska Communities through the Nebraska Library Commission. At the beginning of the grant, August of 2010, the average broadband speed of the 147 participating libraries was 3.88 Mbps and only four libraries had fiber service. By the end of the project, September 2013, the average speed was 19.76 Mbps (an increase of nearly 400 percent) and 38 libraries had fiber services. Speeds have increased gradually for many public libraries, but many of today’s applications (e.g., social networking, streaming video for educational curriculums) demand greater bandwidth and higher connection speeds.

Nebraska Public Libraries have an opportunity to serve as anchor institutions and fill a leadership role in digital inclusion in our state. The question is how to address the challenge of increasing bandwidth speeds offered in all Nebraska Communities. One new resource available to assist Nebraska communities to address this challenge is a set of resources to help communities address broadband-related development. Leveraging Broadband in Your Community: A Workbook to Help Communities Stimulate Broadband Development provides an overview of broadband development and lays out a process for developing a community broadband plan. The interactive workbook developed by partners in the Nebraska Broadband Initiative includes video clips of Nebraskans talking about the importance of broadband in their businesses and communities. Oakland Public Library Director Roas Scmidt is featured sharing the story of broadband access in the library helps meet community needs.

The workbook (http://broadband.nebraska.gov/workbook/html5/index.html ) and additional resources can be found at the initiative’s newly designed website at broadband.nebraska.gov. Take some time to review the workbook and share it with other leaders in your community. Nebraska Broadband Initiative partners will be available to meet with communities and answer questions. If you are interested in learning more about the workbook or in working with members of the Nebraska Broadband Initiative, please contact Anne Byers (anne.byers@nebraska.gov or 402 471-3805, Charlotte Narjes (cnarjes1@unl.edu or 402 472-1724) or Connie Hancock (chancock1@unl.edu or 308-254-4455).

The Nebraska Broadband Initiative promotes the adoption and utilization of broadband in Nebraska. Project partners include the Nebraska Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Information Technology Commission, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, and AIM.

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