AUBURN – Ken Edwards, a LEAD fellow serving the Auburn Economic Development Council, says it’s not hard to get testimonies in rural Nebraska about frustration over internet speeds, but solutions take actual data.

LEAD for Nebraska Fellows Oliver Borchers Williams and Michael Dwiggins, who are serving Southeast Nebraska Development District, provided that data for a recent grant to pay half of the costs for Pinpoint Communications to install a $2 million fiber cable along Highway 75 to connect Nemaha County to lines in Otoe County.

Edwards: “They are doing data mapping and that was hugely critical to this application.”

The reality for rural homes is that high-speed fiber optics can costs thousands per mile to install and the highest-quality, 96-strand fiber optics can cost up to $30,000 per mile.  Providers see the economic sense of building for higher population areas, so the fellows sought grants available through American Recovery funds.

Edwards: “This created a bridge for that gap, so that communities could afford better internet basically. Our goal was to identify areas that are underserved and find the best ways to serve them.”

He said the application was challenged by current providers who contend that service is already adequate.

Edwards: “Michael and Oliver’s testing data showed that the internet service is way lower than what many people are either paying for or even below the federal minimum of what providers are suppose to offer, so, by building up Highway 75 and connecting into Otoe County, it creates a loop so that if the internet goes down at Tecumseh, then southeast Nebraska doesn’t lose internet. “

The ADC says many Nemaha County residents do not have high-speed internet. Actual download speeds are around 12 megabytes, less than half of the federal minimum of 25 megabytes.

Edwards: “This was a big win that took a lot of work. Oliver and Michael, they worked tirelessly with mapping data just … because the grant had been challenged, so we had to prove that it was doing good.”

He said work will continue this  year to begin expanding fiber out to 180 homes along the highway and in towns like Julian and Peru.

The ADC encourages residents to test their internet speeds at nebraskaspeedtest.org