Broadband service already widespread in most of state

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Southwest Nebraska Tea Party's contention that members needed to get involved through use of the Internet was reinforced by a University of Nebraska release earlier Monday confirming just how widespread web access is throughout the state.

The university's Department of Agricultural Economics and Center for Applied Rural Innovation conducted the survey as part of a broadband mapping project funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which aims to increase broadband access.

Some 81 percent of nearly 3,000 surveys returned out of more than 6,000 mailed out indicated that they had Internet access, 76 percent of them broadband.

Predictably, income had an effect on Internet service; 98 percent of households with incomes of at least $75,000 had Internet access, while only 54 percent of those with incomes under $20,000 did. Ninety-four percent of the higher income households had broadband, while only 44 percent of the lower did.

Levels of 54 percent of households having Internet access would have been amazing only a few years ago whatever the income level. Today, one has to wonder how those at the lower income find room in the budget for Internet access of any kind.

Even if they don't have Internet access at home, the survey found that 75 percent of Nebraska households have access to a local place like a library or school where they can use an Internet-accessible computer for free.

Nearly half of those with only dial-up service say they don't have broadband because of cost, while a quarter say they're happy with dial-up.

Perhaps the most important result of the survey was the finding that 56 percent of the households with Internet service said someone works from home using the Internet at least a few times a month. Almost a quarter work from home using the Internet every day.

While it's important for those who work from home to have broadband access, the survey seems to indicate that private industry is doing a good job providing that service at a reasonable cost to the majority of Nebraskans.

Yes, those in the lower income bracket should have access to Internet services, but let's hope we avoid massive government subsidies to provide Internet service that is used primarily for social networking and entertainment.

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