Several Northwoods libraries are set to see improved broadband service by November.
The Department of Administration and the Department of Public Instruction have announced a 4.2 million dollar expansion of BadgerNet through a partnership with several private companies. The expansion will increase internet speeds for almost two thirds of the state’s libraries, including in Three Lakes, Eagle River, Crandon, and Mercer. Libraries in Land o Lakes and Hurley will also benefit.
Department of Public Instruction spokesman Kurt Kiefer says telephone and communications companies will begin running additional fiber optics very soon.
“We hope to have construction started relatively soon, as soon as next month on some of them. And then phase them over the course of the year. They’re hoping to finish up all of them on the list by November or during November.”
In many rural communities libraries provide the most reliable access to high-speed internet, but face limited bandwidth. Kiefer says about many of the state’s libraries only have three megabit download speeds or less, and that doesn’t meet demand.
“One YouTube video running at one time can take up half of that. So you can well imagine a person watching a training video in a library, and someone else trying to check things out – that alone can clog things up.”
State Department of Administration spokesperson Stephanie Marquis says growing the broadband infrastructure will benefit more than just library patrons down the road.
“This first step is really through our libraries, give those customers some immediate impact in their rural communities. But with that fiber being laid throughout the state, that means that those telecommunication companies can begin to expand to customers rurally as well.”
Officials say libraries won’t see additional costs for the improved service.