Lancaster County Board draws up $12 million plan to get rural towns high-speed internet

$12 million in federal stimulus will likely go to making internet faster in rural Lancaster County.
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 6:16 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -Lancaster County is working through how to spend millions in federal stimulus funding. A big chunk, $12 million worth will likely go to a project the county could never afford otherwise. That is making internet faster in rural Lancaster County.

Lancaster County Commissioner Rick Vest said high-speed internet access is now non-negotiable. People need it to live and work, no matter where they live. It’s why it’s a top priority for the county when it comes to spending federal dollars.

Abbey Pascoe, a Waverly City Councilor, said her constituents have been asking for more internet options for years. Specifically fiber internet access.

“Without fiber ran around the county and into Waverly, the amount of options that could be here aren’t today,” said Pascoe.

But that could all change with a proposal the Lancaster County Board has drawn up. They hope to lay a conduit pipeline.

“The conduit would come out of Lincoln and go around the county in two different patterns with branches going out,” Vest said.

That conduit pipeline would make it easier for fiber internet companies to lay fiber and get to rural communities like Waverly, Hickman, Raymond, Bennet and more. Many of which do not currently have high-quality broadband.

“Our goal is to spread fiber through as much of the county as we can, to places that it wouldn’t otherwise be possible economically” Vest said.

Vest said that’s because fiber is the most reliable, most technologically advanced. Which is what every person who lives in the county needs.

“Technology has changed over time,” said Vest. “I was around when the idea of wireless internet in your home was unthinkable. Now it’s a part of our lives, it allows for opportunities.”

It would cost the county up to $12 million. They’ve set aside that much in American Rescue Plan Act Funding, but also look to see if the new Infrastructure Bill could pay for it too. If all goes well, construction could start as early as April.

“The prioritization is correct and I 100% agree that they should want to get it done as soon as possible,” Pascoe said.

Vest said now is the time to provide feedback to the County Board. You can reach them via email here: commish@lancaster.ne.gov

Lancaster County is working through how to spend millions in federal stimulus funding. A big...
Lancaster County is working through how to spend millions in federal stimulus funding. A big chuck, $12 million worth will likely go to a project the county could never afford otherwise. That is making internet faster in rural Lancaster County.(Bayley Bischof)

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