I was elected as a commissioner to the Nebraska Public Service Commission in November 2016. My district is made up of 47 counties, which is basically central and western Nebraska. I travel to Lincoln every week and, as chair of the PSC, I conduct our weekly business meetings as well as take part in hearings, planning conferences, and meetings with officials such as state senators, congressional staff, and representatives of the FCC and with members of our regulated industries.

The PSC regulates various industries, which the Legislature tasks us to regulate: railroad motor and car safety, grain dealers and grain warehouses, public transportation and household goods movers, telecommunications carriers, natural gas and oil pipelines, manufactured homes and recreational vehicles, and 911 public safety.

I have served on the Rural Broadband Task Force since it formed last year. This month we will vote to advance our report to the Legislature by our Nov. 1 deadline. If there is any one thing which we touch which affects the lives of most people in our state, it is broadband, and in my district, rural broadband.

As the PSC and the task force continues our work to push broadband further out into rural areas, I want to ask you to let your community, your internet broadband provider and us know what your challenges are as well as what you’ve done that works. Do you have the speed you need to conduct your business, both in download and upload speeds and capacity? Does your rural business, including precision agriculture and animal agriculture, have the broadband it needs? Is your community talking about your needs and figuring out how to meet them?

Homework, health care, entertainment, communications needs — how is broadband serving your rural area, or is it? We work on these issues on a daily basis at the commission, but no one knows more about what is happening in your part of the state than do you.

Rural broadband must be one of my, our state’s and our country’s top priorities. Please connect with the Public Service Commission through our website and social media and feel free to share your thoughts with me: mary.ridder@nebraska.gov

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