Friday, March 03, 2017

Connecting rural Wisconsin to broadband will cost $1 billion, says news investigation

Broadband access in Wisconsin (StateTech map)
Connecting rural Wisconsin to broadband would cost about $1 billion, Matthew Simon reports for WSAW in the north-central part of the state. Federal officials say more than 40 percent of rural Wisconsin does not have broadband.

"The issue is large expenses associated with building rural location’s infrastructure," Simon writes. "Things like laying wires and building wireless point-to-point resources to make internet a reality for rural Wisconsin families who, right now, do not have the options. Increasing broadband access depends on six pots of money to build the internet infrastructure: three federal, two state and, also, private company investments."

An investigation by WSAW found that "if state lawmakers approve all internet spending proposals during the 2017 budget year, combined with already available federal funds, there could potentially be up to $182 million private companies could tap into to help build that infrastructure," Simon writes. By 2020, the year Republican Gov. Scott Walker "said he would to see broadband available to all who want it, the total amount of funding available will have grown to total more than $600 million."

"By the 2026 budget year, nearly $1 billion will have been invested in building rural Wisconsin internet," Simon writes. "However, those are only the public dollars. They do not account for the investments companies will also make, which is privately held information. Because the plan is to spend so much public internet building money in such a short time, combined with the private investments."

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