Rural Digital Divide

Closing the Rural Digital Divide

Internet access in rural communities is one of the most pressing, and difficult to solve, public policy issues in America today

Group of men speaking in field near farm equipment
Many people sitting in a large conference room discussing


Since 2018 the Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications Law program, now with the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center (NGTC), has hosted a local, regional, and national stakeholder roundtable for the telecommunications industry led by Professor and Director Gus Hurwitz. This ongoing work brings together experts from around the country who have been involved in digital divide policy, to discuss the challenges and potential solutions to this problem. Through a series of roundtables and student opportunities, NGTC capitalizes on our location and local relationships to advance this issue. The goal remains to foster organic, candid discussion between stakeholders, who may not often have the opportunity to interact. Past 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.

Hurwitz's Impact

Hear how Gus Hurwitz and Nebraska Governance and Technology Center work to ensure internet access across rural America

Gus Hurwitz portrait outside with cable spools
Wires going into the back of a router

2021 Projects

In conjunction with the roundtable, NGTC supports research proposals. Annually NGTC aims to provide funding to support 6-8 research projects relating to empirical or near-empirical aspects of the rural digital divide. Authors of selected projects receive a $6,000 honorarium to support their work.

Upcoming calls for proposals in this initiative will be posted on this page.

  • Jacob Manlove, Arkansas State University, Impacts of Broadband Availability in Arkansas Public Schools During the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Survival Analysis of Virtual Learning Decisions
  • Brian Whitacre, Oklahoma State University and Roberto Gallardo, Purdue University, Do “Dig Once” and Permitting Policies Improve Fiber Availability?
  • Angela Hollman and Tim Obermier, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Reverse engineering Rural Measures: Is this the solution for real-time speed monitoring?

2020 Research and Podcast Episodes

In spring 2020, NGTC supported several empirical research projects conducted by academics active in this area of research. Presentation of these projects was ultimately delayed by COVID-19. Instead of the round table discussion that had been planned in person, researchers met virtually. That discussion has been cut down into individual podcasts that are outside the general Tech Refactored series. These episodes will include short presentations from the authors and questions from other project researchers.

What are the economic effects of municipal broadband? January 19, 2020

In this roundtable session Sarah Oh discusses her paper, "What are the economic effects of municipal broadband?" which investigates whether municipal broadband networks increase broadband adoption and create jobs.  Roundtable participants include Angela HollmanTim ObermierDavid ReedMatt LarsenMichael KotrousBrent SkorupBrian WhitacreRoberto Gallardo, and Will Rinehart. Please note, due to some errors in recording during the roundtable this episode has some audio infrequencies.

The Effect of the FCC’s High Cost Program on the Extensive and Intensive Margins of Rural Broadband Deployment December 18, 2020

This episode of the Digital Divide Tech Refactored++ series features Michael Kotrous and Brent Skorup, discussing their paper on the effect of the FCC’s high cost fund. Roundtable participants include Sarah OhAngela HollmanDavid ReedMatt LarsenTim ObermierBrian WhitacreRoberto Gallardo, and Will Rinehart.

State broadband policy: Impacts on availabilityDecember 17, 2020

In this roundtable session Brian Whitacre and Roberto Gallardo discuss their paper, "State broadband policy: Impacts on availability.” Roundtable participants include Sarah Oh, Angela Hollman, Tim Obermier, David Reed, Matt LarsenMichael Kotrous, Brent Skorup, and Will Rinehart.

Cost of Broadband in Rural America: Case Study of Best Fit BroadbandNovember 30, 2020

In this roundtable session David Reed and Matt Larsen discuss their project, "Cost of Broadband in Rural America: Case Study of “Best-Fit” Broadband.” Roundtable participants include Sarah Oh, Angela Hollman, Tim Obermier, Michael Kotrous, Brent Skorup, Brian Whitacre, Roberto Gallardo, and Will Rinehart.

Rural Measures: Visualizing the Rural-Urban Digital DivideNovember 16, 2020

In this roundtable session Angela Hollman and Tim Obermier discuss their project, "Rural Measures: Visualizing the Rural-Urban Digital Divide" and gathering data directly from households to measure internet use in central Nebraska. Roundtable participants include Sarah Oh, David Reed, Matt Larsen, Michael KotrousBrent SkorupBrian WhitacreRoberto Gallardo, and Will Rinehart.