Wisconsin Badgers Carriers for More Rural Broadband Development

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in December proposed increasing funding for broadband expansion and technology educational programs by $35.5 million. This would be in addition to the $16.5 million already earmarked for this effort, if approved by state lawmakers according to the LaCrosse Tribune.

These dollars would help encourage private investment and maximize the $570 million in federal Connect America Fund II dollars that are dedicated to bringing high-speed internet access to an estimated 230,000 rural homes and small businesses over six years, the Tribune reported.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission, under the state’s broadband director Angie Dickison, is trying to ease the process for rural areas to get broadband. Dickison’s office opened the Broadband Forward Certified program that allows rural areas to pre-set conditions that encourage broadband development. The program certifies a community by showing it “signals that a local unit of government has taken steps to reduce obstacles to broadband infrastructure investment. The PSC has created a model ordinance that satisfies the minimum requirements under  Wis. Stat. § 196.504 to assist communities in this effort.”  

“It really is a way for communities to put out the welcome mat,” she told the Tribune.  So far Town of Clam Falls, Village of Kronenwetter, Iowa County and the City of Thorp have been certified.

By accepting CAF funds, AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier are required to report on their progress.

Of the 230,000 targeted households and businesses, AT&T was provided $54 million to bring service to 24,513 new customers; CenturyLink was given $330 million to get service to 129,203 new customers and $186 million went to Frontier Communications to bring service to 76,735 new customers, according to the Tribune.

Benchmarks in place show that 40 percent of eligible customers must have access by the end of 2017. The number increases by 20 percent increments in the following years, ending with between 95 and 100 percent deployment by 2020.

Through this program, companies must at a minimum deliver download speeds in excess of 10 megabits-per-second and upload speeds of one megabit-per-second. The FCC considers this the minimum broadband speed, which should be more than adequate for basic tasks such as internet browsing, online commerce and video streaming, the Tribune reported.

January 5, 2017

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