Wisconsin's Lieutenant Governor stopped in Rhinelander Monday with money to expand the reach of broadband in the Northwoods.
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Broadband Director Tithi Chattopadhyay presented three Northwoods high speed internet providers with grants to expand broadband fiber and wirless coverage.
During the last budget cycle, Governor Walker announced $ 5.5 million would be used at expand broadband in underserved areas, one being the Northwoods. Many places still have old dial-up technology, and business leaders have said this is an economic issue for travelers and businesses.
Kleefisch says with the money, CenturyLink-Boulder Junction Telephone Exchange will extend DSL service to 139 households in Vilas county, ChoiceTel in Eagle River received two grants, for Rhinelander, Eagle River and along Highway "G" north of Eagle River affecting 300 customers, and SonicNet in Cloverland, Phelps and Winchester in Vilas county will construct three wireless towers, affecting 800 customers.
Kleefisch says the upgrades are the first step toward more high-speed internet...
"...what we are doing right now is future-proofing Wisconsin. We are literally laying the groundwork, literally, to make sure all of Wisconsin can benefit from high-speed internet. In many cases, that means laying fiber, in some cases it's wireless, and in some cases, it's different types of connnections..."
Dr. Chattopadhyay said it was quiet in her office a couple of years ago, but the need for broadband as an economic development driver has changed that. She says the Governor, Lt. Governor and legislature and other governments have put broadband coverage up the agenda...
".....a lot of towns and counties are incorporating broadband into their(master) plans. That's something that has changed. Now you see the momentum coming. It was very different in 2012...."
Kleefisch says the investment being made will give Wisconsin a couple of decades of technology leadership. She cited the FAB LAB in Three Lakes, where students will learn new manufacturing collaborating all over the world. She says that wouldn't have been possible without broadband in Three Lakes.
The grants to the three companies was about $225,000.