Nebraska City, NE sets a low bar for local broadband


The city council in Nebraska City, Nebraska has passed a new ordinance that city councilors say will help grow broadband in the city, although they’ve set the bar extremely low for what that might mean. Provisions in the ordinance make it impossible to build a municipal broadband network and also set no minimum speed requirement for broadband providers.

Many cities are looking at ways to improve the broadband services in their area. The FCC has also established guidelines on minimums for speed and service. However, City Manager Joe Johnson in Nebraska City told this to local news channel KMA – “We talked to some service providers that are interested in this,” said Johnson. “They said that if you provide a minimum of 15 megabits, you’ll reduce the competitive environment in Nebraska City, so there’s no minimum.”

If this sounds familiar, it should. This is the same line fed to municipalities across the country over minimum broadband service and is often used in fights to end municipal broadband networks entirely (see Georgia, South Carolina). It appears that city councilors have fully bought into the ALEC talking points. The original city ordinance required minimum service at 15Mbps.

Residents can request greater service from the providers themselves, although given that Verizon has frozen all new FiOS builds, just as one example, we’re left to wonder what the point of such requests would be other than to learn that no new services are coming from the provider itself.

The provision removes public bonding authority entirely. This means that now, or in the future Nebraska City will not be able to create a bond issue to improve services even when providers have no plans to on their own.

CivSource has previously reported on the growth of gigabit providers in Omaha, Nebraska, further supporting a bifurcation of service across the state, ensuring that large cities offer pockets of access leaving out small towns.