Governor Ricketts Announces $5.6 Million in Federal Grants to Develop Strategic Plans for Broadband Expansion

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Press release :

Governor Ricketts Announces $5.6 Million in Federal Grants to Develop Strategic Plans for Broadband Expansion

LINCOLN– Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that the state has received two federal grants, totaling nearly $5.6 million, from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NITA) to develop strategic plans to expand service broadband broadband. Earlier this year, Governor Ricketts created the Connect Nebraska Task Force, a team of leaders tasked with maximizing state and federal funds to expand broadband in Nebraska. The group successfully submitted the grant applications on behalf of the state.

“In today’s digital world, broadband connectivity is basic infrastructure,” Governor Ricketts said. “No matter how far Nebraska residents are from a city, they should have access to the online tools they need to live, learn and do business. Over the past five years, the state has made tremendous strides toward our goal of connecting every corner of Nebraska with reliable high-speed networks. Thank you to the Connect Nebraska Task Force for successfully securing these awards so that we can maximize federal funds to continue our broadband expansion.

The State of Nebraska received $4,999,817 in initial planning funds through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. The BEAD program provides support to expand broadband Internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs. The state will use the grant to generate a statewide broadband map, implement statewide stakeholder outreach, and allow the Nebraska Public Service Commission to expand its team to meet the needs of the program. Upon submission of the BEAD program plan, Nebraska is expected to receive at least an additional $100 million in federal funding to expand statewide broadband infrastructure.

The state is also receiving $598,745 in planning funds through the state’s Digital Equity Planning Grant program. With these funds, the state will build a plan to ensure that Nebraskanians in all areas of the state have internet connectivity, devices such as laptops and smartphones, and the skills to use significantly Internet technologies. The grant will also promote the use of technologies such as telehealth and precision agriculture, which are in the early stages of adoption and have the potential to significantly impact the lives of Nebraska residents and the economy. state economy.

The Nebraska Information Technology Commission (NITC)/Office of the CIO will lead the digital equity planning effort with assistance from the state’s regional economic development districts and the Nebraska Library Commission. The one-year grant will begin Dec. 1, 2022. After completing its digital equity plan, Nebraska can apply for $7.2 million or more in funding over five years to implement a digital equity grant program. digital access, skills and opportunities.

“Now that we have received planning funds for the Digital Equity Program and the BEAD Program, we can begin the next phase of our plan to connect every Nebraska,” said Patrick Redmond, broadband coordinator for the State. “Throughout this process, we will continue to prioritize communication, clarity and coordination when developing our comprehensive broadband plans.”

“The goals of the BEAD program align closely with the Commission’s priorities to get broadband to unserved areas of our state,” said Dan Watermeier, chairman of the Nebraska Public Service Commission. “We look forward to administering this program, as we work together to connect Nebraskanians through the deployment of high-speed Internet access.”

Both grants are for programs created under the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law in November 2021.

GOV. RICKETTS’ SUPPORT FOR BROADBAND EXTENSION IN NEBRASKA

For the past several years, Governor Ricketts has worked with the Unicameral to strengthen Nebraska’s broadband infrastructure. Its actions include:

  • 2018: signing of the LB 994 law to create the rural broadband working group. Chaired by Ed Toner, state chief information officer, the task force was tasked with helping to better understand Nebraska’s broadband needs. Their work assessed gaps in coverage and proposed ways to expand broadband.
  • 2020: Worked with the Legislative Assembly to create the Rural Broadband Remote Access Grant Program. The program has allocated nearly $30 million in federal coronavirus assistance to begin connecting 17,600 households to broadband. This was essential during the pandemic as many services went live.
  • 2021: signing of law LB 388 (the Rural Broadband Bridge Act). It has invested $40 million – $20 million per year in 2021 and 2022 – to help another 30,000 households get broadband connectivity.
  • 2022: signing of the law LB 1144 to modify the law on rural broadband bridges. The change makes it more profitable for telecommunications companies to develop broadband in rural Nebraska by reducing their required share of the initial investment.

2022: Legislation signed specifying Nebraska’s plan to use $87.7 million from the Federal Capital Projects Fund to expand broadband infrastructure. In August, the US Treasury Department approved Nebraska’s proposed use of the funds.

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