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Nebraska Voters: Expand High-Speed Internet Access

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Nebraska voters ages 50 and older overwhelmingly agree that elected officials in Nebraska should work to ensure that high-speed internet is available to all Nebraskans regardless of where they live, according to a new AARP survey. 

Furthermore, the majority of voters support the development of partnerships to bring affordable, high-speed internet to more of Nebraska as well as state action to offer internet providers incentives to expand this service to unserved rural areas. 

The survey also shows widespread use of the internet, including a significant share of voters who report increased home internet use now compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, some voters—especially those in rural areas— report that access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community and that quality, cost, and/or availability have limited their home internet use.

“The need for reliable and affordable high-speed internet is more important than ever yet the survey reveals that access is not uniform throughout Nebraska,” said Todd Stubbendieck, state director of AARP Nebraska. “High-speed internet offers access to resources that can improve quality of life for people of all ages and help older adults live independently. It can reduce the risk of social isolation, provide access to important supportive services including telehealth, promote online learning and help local businesses grow outside their geographical area.”

The survey’s key findings show strong support for action to expand high-speed internet access:

Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) voters agree that elected officials in Nebraska should work to ensure that high-speed internet is available to all Nebraskans.

  • More than 7 in 10 (73%) voters support the development of partnerships among state and local governments, internet service providers, and local nonprofits and businesses to bring affordable, high-speed internet to more of Nebraska.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) voters support state action to offer incentives to internet providers to expand high-speed internet service to rural areas that do not currently have access.

Much of the survey points to widespread reliance on the internet:

More than 8 in 10 (84%) respondents use the internet, with most (75%) accessing it at least once a day.

  • Compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly one in three (31%) home internet users say that their household is now using the internet more at home.
  • Home internet users have used the internet during the pandemic to address important needs such as paying bills (59%), obtaining healthcare or health information (66%) and working remotely (32%).

The survey finds rural areas face more challenges:

  • One in three (32%) Nebraska voters ages 50 plus say that access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community, including more than half (53%) of voters in rural areas.  Rural internet users are also more likely than nonrural users to say that quality (42% v. 24% ), cost (29% v. 21%), and/or availability (24% v. 17%) have limited their use of internet at home “some,” “moderately,” or “a great deal.”
  • The types of home internet connections reported by rural internet users contrast sharply with the types of connections reported by nonrural users. While 54% of nonrural home internet users have a cable internet connection, just 11% of rural home internet users do. Instead, DSL (28%), satellite (13%), and fixed wireless (13%) are more common among rural home internet users.
  • More than 8 in 10 (86%) home internet users do not report having a fiber optic internet connection—typically the fastest service option—at home. Over one in three (37%) cite lack of availability as a “major” reason. Rural internet users without fiber at home are more likely than their nonrural counterparts to cite lack of availability (63% of rural users v. 26% of nonrural users).

The full report is available at www.aarp.org/nehighspeedinternet . The AARP telephone survey was conducted among 1,292 registered voters ages 50 plus in Nebraska.  Sixty percent of the respondents were reached on a mobile phone. The survey was administered by Alan Newman Research between April 12, 2021 and April 19, 2021. 

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