Nebraska broadband bill would help libraries expand Wi-Fi access

CRETE, Neb. (KLKN) – Nebraska libraries could receive financial assistance from a bill to provide internet access.

Lawmakers advanced a bill on Monday that would make broadband more accessible to people in rural areas.

For public libraries, this could also help them expand their internet.

“This bill will give money directly to libraries if they sign up,” said Joy Stevenson, the director of Crete Public Library.

LB 683 would fund the Nebraska Broadband Office, which would focus on spreading reliable internet to people in rural areas who don’t have adequate coverage, whether that be at their homes or businesses.

With 40 senators voting to move the bill forward, it’s now headed to the final round of debate.

SEE ALSO: New state office aims to make broadband more reliable for rural Nebraskans

Stevenson said the financial assistance for libraries that provide internet is just another way to benefit Nebraskans.

“For a library that has a budget of $15,000, and your internet bill is a couple hundred, it’s significant,” she said.

But Stevenson said there’s a catch.

For libraries to get the assistance, they would have to install filters on their computers.

“The idea was to protect children from damaging things that they can access on the internet,” she said. “So they provide funding for libraries to put on filters that, in theory, block out certain things.”

Stevenson said the Crete Public Library does many unique things to break down barriers for those who need internet, like providing 24/7 access to Wi-Fi and expanding that access so users can even log in from the parking lot.

One other way the library makes internet accessible: They don’t put filters on their computers.

“It doesn’t always work, which is part of the problem,” Stevenson said. “Adults, in theory, you could bring the filter down if you wanted to, which I understand is a bit cumbersome.”

Overall, she said the internet is something everyone needs now, which is why this has been a priority for the library as well.

“In some cases, you just can’t get things done anymore,” Stevenson said. “That’s just the way things are set up. You might have job applications where the only way you can do it is online. And that was something that was true five years ago.”

She said this bill could be a positive thing for many libraries, and in turn, will make it easier and cheaper for Nebraskans to access broadband internet.

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