Legislative Testimony for LB455: Adopt the Broadband Pole Attachment Act
Good afternoon, Vice Chairwoman Geist and members of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. My name is Nicole Fox, and I am Director of Government Relations for the Platte Institute. I am here to testify in support for LB455.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light significant differences that exist across the state of Nebraska regarding communities with and without access to broadband service. Nebraskans found themselves having to pivot in terms of how they went about their daily lives— they began working from home, engaging in remote learning, and accessing health care providers virtually.
Those with good connectivity adapted to their new way of life. In fact, after they were done with their workday and overseeing their child’s learning, they also went about usual pre-COVID-19 online activities such as online shopping and banking. I believe some also participated in a few Zoom meetings to catch up with family and friends.
But when you spoke to Nebraskans lacking connectivity, it was a different story. Their ability to work from home was limited, their kids did not receive classroom instruction for what seemed like endless months. Hopping online to purchase a few groceries or personal supplies to avoid exposure with the public was not an option. Online banking was not an option. “Jumping on a Zoom meeting” to get caught up with loved ones wasn’t the “new norm.”
Connectivity is important to Nebraska’s largest industry – agriculture. Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers need access to agricultural technologies to increase yields and conserve resources.
Small businesses are also very important to Nebraska. Connectivity will allow them to modify their business models to save on overhead costs while attempting to grow their businesses.
While there are a lot of components to consider in improving connectivity, this bill, LB455 is an important step to help get us there. LB455 creates the Broadband Pole Attachment Act to address one of the largest impediments to deploying broadband infrastructure in rural and unserved areas.
Unlike new developments in suburban areas, where dig-once approaches can be taken mutually by utility and telecommunications companies to deploy broadband, in rural areas, telecommunications companies rely on access to utility poles to mount their broadband cables. Currently, broadband providers must first gain permission from utility pole owners, pay for needed modifications, and even replace entire poles if they lack capacity or have reached the end of their lifespans. These requirements create both inefficiencies and added cost.
This is especially burdensome in remote areas where miles of infrastructure may be needed just to reach one house or farm.
LB455 would remove these regulatory and financial barriers. It would ensure that fitting utility poles with broadband infrastructure, also known as “make-ready” work, can be completed quickly and with reasonable and fair costs for the services provided.
The Platte Institute asks this committee to advance LB455 to General File.