Category Archives: Broadband Buzz

NCompass Live: The ‘Toward Gigabit Libraries’ Project Update

Improve your library’s broadband service with the Toward Gigabit Libraries Toolkit on next week’s FREE NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, September 2 at 10am CT.

Join us for an update on the Toward Gigabit Libraries project, funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), designed to help public and tribal librarians learn about their current broadband infrastructure and internal information technology (IT) environment. The project has been awarded a new grant from the IMLS to fund an expansion of the Towards Gigabit Libraries toolkit to increase tech capacities in rural, tribal & urban libraries. Through the use of the project’s “Broadband Toolkit” and customizable “Broadband Improvement Plan”, librarians have become better equipped to improve their broadband services and become stronger advocates for their libraries’ broadband infrastructure needs.

Presenters: Carson Block, Library Technology Consultant; Stephanie Stenberg, Director, Internet2 Community Anchor Program (CAP); Holly Woldt, Library Technology Support Specialist, Nebraska Library Commission; Tom Rolfes, Education I.T. Manager, Nebraska Office of the CIO/NITC.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Sept. 9 – Discount Shopping with the NLC
  • Sept. 23 – NLC Grants for 2021
  • Sept. 30 – Pretty Sweet Tech
  • Oct. 21 – Migrating to an Open-Source ILS in an Academic Library: How to Celebrate Successes and Bounce Back from Problems

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Nebraska’s Great Broadband Divide: Living Without High-speed Internet Access

On August 2, 2020 CBS Sunday Morning aired a story called “The Great Broadband Divide: Living Without High-speed Internet Access.” The story is about tens of millions of Americans in rural areas who are unable to obtain broadband internet and illustrates how it hampers business development and people trying to make a living in rural areas across the country. It also puts students at a distinct disadvantage when competing with others who don’t have these limitations, especially in this time of a pandemic.

Broadband is defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as achieving a speed of 25 mega bits per second (Mbps). The highest broadband speed available in the US right now is 2000 Mbps, the average speed is 129 Mbps, and 25 Mbps is what the FCC defines as broadband, which is not very fast, especially when streaming video or downloading/uploading large files. According to the FCC there are 20 – 23 million people in the U.S. without broadband, but Microsoft did a study that showed 162 million Americans lack broadband access. Gigi Sohn, who worked at the FCC during the Obama administration explained that “the FCC says is, if you serve one person in a census block, that means you’re serving everybody in the census block.”

A new report on the homework gap by Common Sense Media “Closing the K-12 Digital Divide in the Age of Distance Learning,” published in 2020, shows that 29% of Nebraska students, 95,834 of them are lacking adequate high-speed connection. This report also cited that 21%, or 68,888 of all Nebraska students, lack a device to access the internet.

Because the data is not collected at the address-level by student household the measures are elusive, however school districts are being encouraged to collect the data this fall. State Senator Tom Brandt of Plymouth, District 32, who introduced a bill (LB996) to create the Broadband Data Improvement Program, will help Nebraska identify areas without high-speed internet. However, we do have the following information from the U.S. Census – American Community Survey from 2018.

This lack of broadband availability in libraries is a focus of the Library Commission’s “Better Broadband for Nebraska Libraries” initiative. Holly Woldt & Cynthia Nigh, along with other agency team members on the Library Infrastructure Broadband Committee are working towards assisting with discovering, advocating and assisting with obtaining funding and providing information to libraries looking for ways to improve their internet speed.

If you would like to see specific information about your county’s broadband statistics follow this link and select your county.

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2019 Public Library Survey Data is Now Available

The 2019 FY public library survey data is now available on the NLC website. This is preliminary data (meaning that it has not yet been certified by IMLS) so keep in mind that it is subject to change. Thanks to all of you who submitted your statistics. Historical data (back to 1999) is also available on our website. The next survey cycle begins in November, but you should be collecting those statistics now. If you are a new library director, check out the Bibliostat guide.

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New State Funding Source for Fiber Construction for Nebraska Public Libraries

The Nebraska Public Service Commission has issued an Order establishing the E-Rate Special

Construction State Matching Grant Program (NUSF-117) as a way to help facilitate Federal Communication Commission (FCC) with the build-out of new fiber to Nebraska libraries and schools. This new grant program is designed to maximize federal support through the FCC E-rate Special Construction Program.  Nebraska public libraries are able to apply for up to 10% of the total fiber build-out construction cost to the library with these grant funds.  The approved state funds provide a match for the federal E-rate funds (also up to 10%) to be paid toward the fiber build-out construction cost.

The E-rate Special Construction State Matching Grant Program  is a four year program with one million dollars available to library applicants that have been approved by the both the state and federal programs.

“I commend the Nebraska Public Service Commission for creating the E-Rate Special Construction State Matching Grant Program. The matching funds will be a significant incentive to help Nebraska libraries install fiber connections for high-speed internet service. Libraries that capitalize on fiber build-outs using this state and federal funding opportunity will be able to fulfill their mission of serving the public’s demand for technology resources,” said Rod Wagner, Director Nebraska Library Commission.

Currently about 40 percent of the 247 Nebraska public libraries report internet speeds of less than 12 Mbps.

 Often Nebraska access to free Wi-fi in rural areas is located at the local public library. The library may also be the only location for many miles where a traveler or local citizen can assess a printer/fax machine or computer free. School-age children in rural communities use the free Wi-fi to use their Chrome Books and complete their homework assignments. Local citizens who do not have access to a computer a home can complete online government forms and address medical concerns with providers that offer telehealth services at their local library. The local library has a critical role in providing access to the internet in rural communities. The Nebraska Rural Broadband Task Force included in its recommendations, Legislative Bill LB-992, that Nebraska Universal Services Fund be used to provide the matching funding source for fiber build-outs to assist libraries to upgrade rural libraries’ access to fiber. 

 The Nebraska Library Commission will host a webinar on June 18 to provide local library directors and opportunity to learn more about the grant program.

Nebraska Public Service Commission news release, PSC Initiates Grant Program to Help Bring Broadband to Libraries & Schools .

For more information, contact Holly Woldt, 402-471-4871

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Broadband Facts for Your County

Is your community wanting to work to improve the broadband speed in your library? Often times, library speeds lag behind what the community really needs, or the community might not understand how impactful improving the library internet might be. Sometimes, it is difficult to even determine what your community needs might be. One first step in having these conversations is to look over our now available broadband fact sheets. These are available for every county in Nebraska, and are intended to be used to help start community, county-wide or regional discussions about broadband availability, adoption, and digital inclusion. More information, including data sources and suggested discussion questions are also included. To view or download these, go to the main broadband page on the data services portion of our website. From there, you have the option to select by county, or pull up a map and click on a county for the fact sheets. The main page also has a broadband discussion guide, to help you with these conversations.

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‘E-rate: What’s New for 2020?’ Recording now available

The recording and presentation slides of the E-rate: What’s New for 2020? online session are now available.

What is E-rate? How do I apply for E-rate? How can my library get its piece of the E-rate pie?

E-rate is a federal program that provides discounts to schools and public libraries on the cost of their Internet Access and Connections to make these services more affordable. This includes Broadband, Fiber, and Wi-Fi Internet access as well as Internal Connections, such as wiring, routers, switches, and other network equipment.

The E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) is your online portal for all E-rate interactions. With your organizational account you can use EPC to file forms, track your application status, communicate with USAC, and more.

In this workshop, Christa Porter, Nebraska’s State E-rate Coordinator for Public Libraries, will cover the basics of the E-rate program and show you how to access and use your account in EPC to submit your Funding Year 2020 E-rate application.

If you have any questions or need any assistance with your E-rate forms, visit the NLC E-rate webpage or please contact Christa Porter, 800-307-2665, 402-471-3107.

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The Homework Gap

The homework gap is a stubborn disparity in at-home broadband that hinders millions of students’ access to the array of online learning, collaboration, and research tools enjoyed by their better-connected peers.

The State of Nebraska recognized this disparity and in July 2018 the Governor and the Legislature created the Rural Broadband Task Force (RBTF) to research the problem and to formulate recommendations in a report initially due on November 1, 2019, and every two years thereafter. Nebraska public libraries were fortunate to be recognized by the RBTF as playing a vital role in providing free public Wi-Fi in rural communities. In particular, libraries serve K-20 students who are part of the “Homework Gap”, those who need access to the internet to complete assignments and check on their grades, but who do not have internet access away from school or campus.

Five of the six RBTF Homework Gap recommendations specifically mention public libraries and increased support to provide faster internet.

To learn more about the RBTF and their task (LB 994) to review “issues relating to availability, adoption, and affordability of broadband services in rural areas of Nebraska”, check out the main page on their website.

Please take a moment to view our Homework Gap video below. The video has sound, so make sure to turn yours on.


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NCompass Live: Improving Internet Access In US Libraries: the ‘Toward Gigabit Libraries’ Project

Learn how to Improve Internet Access in US Libraries with the ‘Toward Gigabit Libraries’ Project on next Wednesday’s FREE NCompass Live webinar!

While much worthy attention has been paid to improving “last mile” connectivity for rural and tribal libraries, it’s the last 100 meters (the network inside the building) that is often overlooked and in need of improvement. The IMLS-funded Toward Gigabit Libraries project aims to address that problem through a self-service toolkit suitable for even the most novice of library workers. In straightforward, easy-to-understand language, the toolkit is designed to take lay people through technical concepts and tasks to create a Broadband Improvement Plan for each library. The plan is designed to help the library where it’s needed most – including improvements to hardware, software and configuration, suggestions for training and education, resources to advocate for better connectivity, and more. Fresh from the overwhelmingly successful pilot implementation of the toolkit in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, the presenters will share the results of the pilot, lessons learned, and how this free toolkit applies to libraries of all types and sizes.

Presenters: Carson Block, Library Technology Consultant; Holly Woldt, NLC Library Technology Support Specialist; Tom Rolfes, Education IT Manager, Nebraska Information Technology Commission.

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • March 13 – Ethics Behind Emerging Technology
  • March 20 – Reading Diversely
  • March 27 – Health Education Resources with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine
  • April 10 – What is OER? Outstanding, Extraordinary Raw materials?
  • April 24 – Connect to Meetings, and more…Experts, Virtual Field Trips with Zoom

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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