2020 Nebraska Rural Digital Divide Roundtable

On March 19 and 20, 2020, the University of Nebraska College of Law will host its third annual roundtable on closing the rural digital divide. As in previous years, this event will bring together regional and national stakeholders for a by-invitation discussion of the challenges of, and the status of solutions to, closing the rural digital divide. A general call for participants for this discussion will be circulated around the beginning of the new year.

This year, we are expanding this event to also feature a one-day research roundtable for academic and other researchers who are conducting empirical studies of the rural digital divide. The purpose of this discussion is to bring together researchers to share works-in-progress with both other researchers and regional stakeholders that are in a position to provide on-the-ground feedback to these researchers.

We anticipate selecting 5 to 8 projects for discussion at this research roundtable. Ideally projects will be at an early enough stage that feedback can be readily incorporated into ongoing work, but far enough along that substantive discussion will be possible. We have a strong preference for projects that are addressing discrete, empirical, questions, and anticipate awarding research honoraria of up to $5000 to projects selected for participation. This is in addition to covering travel costs for participants to join us for this event.

Example topics include cost studies of rural wireless deployments, comparative studies of the effects of ACAM funding, event studies of legislative interventions such as allowing customers unserved by carriers in their home exchange to request service from carriers in adjoining exchanges, comparative studies of the effectiveness of various federal and state funding mechanisms, and cost studies of different sorts of municipal deployments. This list is far from exhaustive.

Projects can be submitted for consideration at http://go.unl.edu/DigitalDivide2020CFP and should be submitted no later than November 18, 2019. Selected papers and awards of research honoraria will be announced by December 9, 2019.

We thank those who have worked with us to make this event a success over the past two years –including Comcast, the International Center for Law and Economics, Microsoft, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, the Nebraska Telecommunications Association, and the University of Nebraska’s Rural Futures Institute – and look forward to continuing to partner with these and others in the community to continue supporting efforts to close the rural digital divide.

Please contact me or Elsbeth Magilton (elsbeth@unl.edu) with any questions.

The 2019 Telecom and Digital Divide Events were held April 18th (public) and April 19th (closed session)

The rural digital divide is one of the most pressing, and difficult to solve, public policy issues in America today. This conference brought together experts from around the country that have been involved in digital divide policy, to discuss the challenges and potential solutions to this problem. Particular attention was given to the role of wireless technologies in rural America and federal programs funding.

This program was free and open to the public.
This program was approved for 6.5 hours Nebraska CLE.

2018 Telecom Roundtable: “The Role of States in Closing the Digital Divide.”

In 2018, the first time ever, the program hosted a local, regional, and national stakeholder round table for the telecommunications industry led by Professor Gus Hurwitz. The goal was to foster organic, candid discussion between stakeholders who may not often have the opportunity to interact. The discussion was moderated to keep it from moving too far afield or getting too deep into the weeds, but there were no panels or formal presentations. Participants included representation from Google, Comcast, the Nebraska Telecommunications Association, Microsoft, the FCC, Iowa Communications Alliance, Great Plains Telecommunications, Century Link, the State Independent Telephone Association of Kansas, the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and more.

The roundtable started with a brief discussion of recent and ongoing legislative and regulatory activity at the state and federal level relating to the digital divide, including recent FCC rules and orders, state legislation, recent federal omnibus legislation, and an overview of the FCC BDAC’s work. The group discussed what capabilities a network needs to provide in order to say that a community is served, levels of services, obstacles, and experiences. The roundtable concluded with a discussion of how to fund infrastructure projects as required in the telecom industry.