Rural-based broadband funding plan amended, advanced

A bill meant to give rural customers more input on their broadband carriers was advanced from select file April 14.

Sen. Bruce Bostelman
Sen. Bruce Bostelman

The Public Service Commission adopted rules in 2018 to withhold Nebraska Universal Service Fund support from telecommunications carriers that do not offer broadband services and instead redirect that funding to eligible carriers who could provide broadband in the same exchange area.

Currently, those funds could be redirected only through a reverse auction process. LB338, sponsored by Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman, would authorize a second method to redirect funds known as a rural-based plan.

To qualify for consideration by the PSC, a rural-based plan must include an eligible telecommunications company. The plan would be judged on the company’s history and service capability in the area, as well as local support, partnerships with local public power and wireless internet service providers and cooperation by the incumbent local exchange carrier that has lost support from the commission.

A plan approved under the provisions of LB338 by the PSC would include a deployment timeline to include periodic milestones and reporting requirements from the telecommunications company.

As amended on general file, the bill would require any recipient of ongoing high-cost financial support from the universal service fund to submit to broadband service speed tests by the PSC. Any universal service funds distributed for new broadband infrastructure construction would be directed to projects that provide service scalable to 100 Mbps or greater of upload speed.

Additionally, any political subdivision that receives federal funding for broadband service enhancement would be required to provide service scalable to 100 Mbps or greater for both upload and download speed.

Bostelman introduced an amendment on select file that would ensure no federal funding could be used to expand broadband service in locations already capable of 100 Mbps or greater for both upload and download speed.

Following the 36-0 adoption of the Bostelman amendment, senators advanced the bill to final reading on a voice vote.

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