Legislators push for rural broadband internet access

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  • Ringhand

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    Spreitzer

  • Ringhand

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    Spreitzer

ORFORDVILLE - Many Wisconsin residents living in rural parts of the state don't have high speed internet access, and the issue is no different in the Stateline Area as more funding may be on the way to help extend the grid.

Senator Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, and Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, hosted a listening and information session with county residents on Wednesday evening in Orfordville with representatives of Bug Tussel Wireless.

The recently approved 2019-2021 state budget appropriated $44 million over the course of the two-year fiscal term for the Broadband Expansion Grant Program.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Wisconsin is below the national average in broadband deployment, with a total of around 783,000 people in the state without access to at least one broadband service with a speed of 25 megabits or better.

In Rock County, the Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) program by the FCC has in the past awarded funds to Middleton, Wis. firm Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. for installing broadband services. Between 2014 and 2019, the program has awarded a total of over $20 million through 138 grants, according to program data.

Spreitzer says the government grant program will help bridge the gap between what's being offered by federal authorities. As part of the state grant program, small rural municipalities must partner with an IT firm or internet company to receive funds, Spreitzer said.

"It's become a really big issue for people," Spreitzer said. "If you look at a map, southwest Rock County is where we don't have good coverage and there hasn't been a grant in that area."

Spreitzer said Bug Tussel was interested in working in Rock County and were busy "making some connections."

Ringhand said she's heard from people across her district on their complaints about slow internet speeds.

"It's terrible that so many people are missing out," she said.

Exact dates for the new round of broadband expansion grants are not yet available, but the application window could open in the early fall, Spreitzer said.

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