BEATRICE – A project to provide high-speed broadband to unserved or under-served rural homes in the central and northern part of Gage County is underway.
NextLink is doing a project backed partly by American Rescue Plan Act funding. Wednesday, a groundbreaking was held at a site northwest of Pickrell, where crews have been burying conduit as part of the project to bring high speed internet service to residents.

"We are getting to homes that just have D-S-L....they just have copper, that's what most of them have."

Dale Dishman is Director of Fiber Operations in Nebraska for the NextLink project. Gage County committed about $4.2 million in ARPA funding toward the more than $11 million investment.

"We have about 414 miles of underground fiber we're going to lay...and that's all going to be in conduit. And, we have a little over a thousand serviceable locations inside of that area...and that's all in Gage County. It's take us about six to eight months to put all that in....and the fiber goes in right behind it."

Dishman says crews can bury about four to six miles of conduit per day. The company is securing permits from Gage County to use right-of-way to install the conduit and fiberoptic, parallel to roadways. Dishman says rural property owners have been welcoming the improvement and he says its been a great experience getting the project going.  Dishman, who’s had experience with similar projects across the country, says the ARPA program changed the landscape when it comes to upgrading broadband service.

"I think it increases our be able to get out and get after these areas like this. Without it, we probably wouldn't have even entered into this market here in Gage County. And, it's not just here in's driven it all over the country. Broadband is now the big push...and without that money, you wouldn't see that."

There are three crews that are doing the conduit installation. Dishman says there are about 18 employees working on the project….and other contractors number between 40 to 80, depending on the work schedule.

NextLink is operating out of a building in Pickrell, where conduit is stored. Additional conduit is delivered to the site from Hastings, as rolls of it go into the ground.  The installations are in an area from Birch Road to Sargent Road…between Southwest 100th Road and South 110th Road….including the Adams, Pickrell and Clatonia areas.

Gage County officials and NextLink personnel participated in a groundbreaking and a lunch afterward at the company’s Pickrell headquarters, to mark the start of the project.