Neb. Local areas band together for rural broadband

(TNS) – Loup Power District is drafting a funding resolution it hopes will help area farmers receive high-speed broadband.

The power company is drafting a funding resolution that would be carried out by every public entity involved in a potential backbone network in the four-county area, according to information given at Loup’s meeting last week. A separate funding resolution would be executed by each county, Wolf, and any other public entities that may be interested in partnering for the broadband backbone network.

“When you get to the rural areas of the four counties area [Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties], the availability of high-speed and high-speed Internet services is a bit limited,” said President and CEO Neal Suess. “…We don’t seem to have a problem in Columbus, but I know some of our small towns that we serve are losing people and have lost people in the past. So is there a way to bring services into these areas to basically keep people on the farm? »

During this meeting, Suess provided the Board with an update on the matter.

Loup Power District – along with the Nebraska Public Power District and Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties – had previously entered into a memorandum of understanding regarding rural broadband issues in the region. A memorandum of understanding is a document that details the objectives and guidelines for the development of a private/public partnership.

Meanwhile, the MOU is how authorized public entities can work together to seek funding opportunities to bring high-speed broadband service to rural areas in the Wolf service area. The MOU also allows for discussions with private entities that may be willing to become broadband service providers in rural sections of the Loup service area.

Suess said the backbone network would take about 300 miles of network to put in place.

According to Suess, former NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope — who leads the rural broadband effort throughout Nebraska — invited the Cornhusker Public Power District to join this lawsuit, but is still waiting for the response from the CPPD.

The funding resolution would indicate the level of commitment — in dollars — that each entity is willing to put forward for the network, Suess said. Once the amount is known, the power company — with help from Pope — could develop a request for proposals from private broadband entities, Suess said. The groups would also partner in backbone development and help bring broadband to a rural area of ​​Wolf’s four-county service territory, he added.

As previously reported by Columbus’ Telegram, Nebraska law prohibits public power districts from selling the Internet to users; however, they could allow telecommunications companies to lease the use of fiber optic infrastructure owned by these energy districts. For several years, private telecommunications companies have claimed that the high cost of investing in rural broadband infrastructure is an obstacle to providing high-speed Internet in rural areas, where there are fewer customers, which would harm investments.

The funds could come from money from the counties’ American Relief Plan Act, which was also discussed at last week’s board meeting. Each county has expressed interest in potentially using the money to continue rural broadband operations in their respective counties, Suess said.

He said each entity sees the benefits of rural broadband, noting that public-private partnerships are being touted as a solution to closing the broadband gap in rural areas statewide.

“The thought process is in the rural areas where they have limited access to broadband, is there a way to improve the provision of this service to these rural areas to help these people from an economic development perspective or from a perspective of steady development on the agricultural base,” Suess said.

©2022 Columbus’ telegram. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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