Pole replacement and underground fund would empower broadband deployment in Nebraska

Pole replacement and underground fund would empower broadband deployment in Nebraska

Nebraskans are more reliant on broadband connectivity now than ever. Connectivity is important for people accessing government services, online banking, education, health care, and remote work.

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, employing 48% of Nebraska’s workforce. Connectivity will allow them to modify their business models to save on overhead costs while attempting to grow their businesses and create jobs.

LB733 creates the Broadband Pole Placement and Undergrounding Fund Act. It would address one of the largest barriers to broadband expansion by cutting broadband deployment costs in Nebraska and empowering providers to expand access to reliable, high-speed, affordable broadband.

Unlike new developments in suburban areas, where utility and telecommunications companies can mutually utilize dig-once approaches to deploy broadband, in rural areas, telecommunications companies rely on access to infrastructure put in place by Nebraska’s public power industry – namely utility poles. This deployment often results in the need to replace old, dilapidated, or out-of-code poles, leading to increased time, money, and resource expenditures.

In cases where pole owners require broadband providers to cover the entire cost of installing newly upgraded poles, which are owned wholly by electric providers, disputes over the cost of these assets can entirely shut down a rural broadband deployment project or significantly inflate its costs. Moreover, although undergrounding cable or mid-span pole placement can be used to avoid replacing existing poles, both strategies add significant costs to broadband deployment projects.

Adopting a pole replacement and undergrounding fund would address these barriers and significantly cut broadband deployment costs, particularly in remote areas where miles of infrastructure may be needed to reach just one house or farm. The adoption of LB733 would increase connectivity in Nebraska and the vocational, educational, and healthcare opportunities vital for the success of our rural communities far into the future.

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