Lack of broadband access is a hindrance to farming business

By Lacey Hall, McCool Junction, Nebraska

My husband and I reside about five miles outside of McCool Junction, Nebraska, a town of about 300 residents, and, for years, have struggled with broadband access. We have been in the category of Nebraskans who didn’t have an internet subscription.

We built our farm operation in York County, so we are very tied to that location. Our home, however, sits in a lower elevation area, and is not in a convenient spot for internet access. Factors like internet shouldn’t determine where we live.

A couple years ago, we had no options for internet, as there were limited providers, and we were told we wouldn’t be able to get access. Cell phone coverage was also limited, so we invested hundreds of our own hard-earned dollars in booster equipment to get coverage in our house and shop.

Once we made the investment, we adjusted our cell phone plan and were able to use “hot spots” to connect our computer to the internet for access. Did that work consistently? No. Was it a fast connection speed? No. Did we get frustrated and disgusted with it? Absolutely. But, we had no other options.

Two and a half years later, we finally got internet access. I use the term “we” lightly, because my mother-in-law built a home one-half mile down the road on a hill, and she’s technically the one who gets internet. So, we’re reliant on her to bounce a signal down to us. We fumbled around with a lot of cords and antennas, and personally purchased $1,200 worth of equipment to do this. Lucky for us, we have a relative who drew up a plan and installed everything free of charge.

The lack of internet access has also deterred furthering my education. I graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness, and currently have a full-time job off the farm. I’ve considered taking online courses to get my master’s degree, but dismissed the idea because I knew it wouldn’t be possible to stream lectures or do coursework online.

The internet in rural Nebraska is a hindrance to development. Farming is no hobby; it’s a business, and the lack of internet complicates our ability to succeed. Agriculture is a huge component in the success of the state’s economy, contributing more than $23 billion, yet much of this revenue comes from rural areas with a lack of broadband options. My husband and I work very hard for what we have, but factors such as rural broadband are so out of our control that we must speak up and share our story in hopes that improvements can be made to modernize rural Nebraska.