Date of this Version
Flower, P. 2022. The Broadband Mapping Challenge: An Overview of Rural Broadband Status and Policy Solutions for Nebraska. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Broadband, the availability of high-speed internet service for the transmission of electronic data, it is a critical component in the daily life of Americans. However, there is significant disparity in the United States between urban and rural areas in regard to broadband availability and adoption. This issue has created what is known as the “digital divide”, a situation in which lower income, rural residents, and those living on tribal lands are most severely impacted by limited broadband services. “Broadband Mapping” refers to a data collection process that is primarily overseen by the Federal Communications Commission. Unfortunately, a variety of flaws in the agency’s data collection methods have resulted in overstated levels of availability in rural areas, preventing funding and oversight from being properly allocated. Nebraska is among numerous states that have been significantly impacted by faulty broadband mapping, bringing into question what possibilities lie ahead for increasing broadband availability and better serving rural residents. This study explores the historical context of broadband mapping and examines actual outcomes on both the national and state levels. Examples of state-led initiatives for broadband mapping are examined to determine their feasibility and possible success in the state of Nebraska. It is found that there are currently several state-level broadband mapping initiatives forming in Nebraska, each of which can be evaluated by specific public policy criteria. It is recommended that state broadband mapping projects are a viable and attractive option for the state of Nebraska that should be utilized to appropriately allocate government funding.