By Jessika Benes, Juniata, Nebraska
Before moving back to the family farm outside Juniata, in Adams County, my husband and I lived in rural southwest Iowa.
When we were preparing for the move to Nebraska, it became apparent that internet access was very limited. We called more than 10 companies, and only one offered service to our location, service which ended up being of very poor quality.
According to 2016 Federal Communications Commission estimates, we are among the nearly 50 percent of rural Nebraskans who do not have access to speeds that qualify as broadband. But, for my family, it’s more than just a statistic. Limited broadband access impacts our daily lives and our economic opportunities in rural Adams County.
Our slow internet speed created great hardships for me as I tried to take an education class online. Each month, prior to attending in-person classes, I was required to watch online lectures and pass a test. My internet was too slow to load the lectures or the timed exams, so I had to take my personal laptop to the public library to download the lectures, then watch them at home. I also had to schedule a time to use the desktop computer at the library because the internet kept disconnecting on my laptop. The library computer was so slow at loading my timed exams that I had to ask my instructor to change the format so I could get all the questions loaded during the time limit. I will now have to reconsider any forms of education that require online components because slow internet speed makes it too difficult to complete course requirements.
Poor internet speed also makes it very difficult to operate my business. This year, I launched Mid Plains Mobile Vet & Animal Chiropractic. Slow internet makes it challenging to design and run a website for my business. I also have difficulty ordering supplies from my distributors because my internet usually can’t load images. Telemedicine, a very popular technique in human medicine, is making its way into progressive veterinary practices. Unfortunately, there is no way I can serve my clients with that type of medicine without significant improvement to broadband in rural areas.
I’m also disappointed with the lack of broadband internet because I love to share photos with family and friends who are out of state. Currently, I share very little because of the extra time it takes to upload images. Furthermore, as internet streaming services continue to grow, I would love for my three-year-old to be able to watch (stream) a show without having to tell me repeatedly it isn’t working (because much of the time it’s just buffering).
I understand state budgets are tight, but investing in our broadband infrastructure is an investment in our future. The world is constantly changing, and residents of Nebraska are being left behind.
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