DILLER—The Federal Communications Commission hopes to one day offer broadband Internet services to rural Nebraska and beyond.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski visited Diller businesses Wednesday to see how far broadband technology has reached in the Midwest and how much farther it has to go.
Genachowski spoke to community and broadband leaders from as far as Kansas and Iowa about the importance of spreading broadband service.
“In terms of broadband deployment, about 20-25 million Americans live in areas that don’t have any broadband at all,” Genachowski said. “That’s one of the problems that we’re trying to tackle. On the adoption side — the people who could have broadband but don’t sign up — we’re at about 67 percent in the country nationally. We need to push that up much higher.”
Genachowski said high speed Internet plays a similar role that telephone service and electricity once played.
“We just have to drive that up to create the kinds of jobs and businesses seen here today,” he said.
Genachowski’s first stop in Diller was C and C Processing where owner Chad Lottman gave a tour of the meat processing facility and grocery store.
Following a push last year to increase online sales, Lottman spoke to Genachowski about his need for quick, reliable Internet service in running the business.
“The broadband networking we can do has been phenomenal for helping us to grow,” Lottman said. “We’ve been lucky to have (Diode Communications) here in town to help keep us at the forefront of some of that technology, otherwise our website wouldn’t have been possible.
“In my opinion, when we had dial up the idea of having a website and doing anything like we do today would not be feasible,” he added. “It would have dramatically hindered what you can do when you’re researching a product.”
Diller Telephone Company (DTC) and Diode Communications president and CEO Randy Sandman said while Lottman’s current connection allows him to do more than he previously could, DTC hopes to continue increasing Internet speeds in the area.
“Currently, (Lottman’s) only at around a two (megabytes per second),” Sandman said. “Next week, we’re going to be able to provide him with what he needs. He’s looking at eight Mb/s. The fiber facilities allow you to grow as the customer needs it, and that’s how we stay on the map.”
While the majority of C and C Processing’s online sales remain seasonal, Lottman said the improved website has helped the company gain clients.
“Even local customers were seeing this nice website and if they had two or three processors to choose from, they were choosing us,” Lottman said. “Granted we could have had a website up without that connection, but the reality is you’re not going to maintain that properly.”
After hearing Lottman’s needs and experience with broadband service, Genachowski used C and C Processing as a model example for why such service is needed across the country.
“What you’ve built here in rural America, from a little store to a very strong small business that’s hiring people even in this economy, is an incredible thing,” Genachowski said. “It proves the relationship between broadband, economic growth and job creation. It also proves how important it is to have high speed connectivity in rural America.”
After witnessing first hand the role broadband service plays in Diller, Genachowski spoke about what needs to be done to see some of the technology available in Diller presented on a national scale.
“We know some of the core principles of what we need to do,” Genachowski said. “We need to transform the system into something that’s about high speed Internet and the future, not about old telephone service. We need to do it in a way that’s fiscally responsible because the money doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from real people.”
Genachowski added he would like to see changes begin to be implemented as early as this year.
Despite it’s potential high cost, he went on to cite national broadband coverage as a potential savior of rural communities that have seen declining populations in recent years.
“The way to keep businesses here in rural America is we need to find a way to get broadband to the places where it isn’t,” Genachowski said. “We need to recognize that money doesn’t grow on trees and figure out a smart way to do it.”