Broadband Task Force’s 2022 report says progress has been made but Wisconsin is still underconnected

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Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access Released 2022 Report report Tuesday, showing that the millions of dollars of state and federal money spent on broadband expansion in recent years have increased access, but there are still hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites without adequate internet service.

The report shows that there are persistent challenges presented by a lack of quality data showing where the most underserved parts of the state are and ensuring that broadband expansion projects reach the poorest communities, the most rural and marginalized.

Since Governor Tony Evers took office in 2019, the state has spent more than $300 million on broadband expansion, according to a news release. That money comes from the state budget and federal aid through several COVID-19 relief bills and the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year. State and federal funds have provided or will provide new or improved Internet services to more than 387,000 homes and businesses, the statement said.

Broadband internet is absolutely essential to helping people learn, work and stay connected to important services, and since 2019 we have made tremendous strides in connecting Wisconsin residents by funding projects that will provide new or improved broadband to more than 387,000 homes. and businesses across our state,” Governor Evers said in a statement. “I would like to thank the many experts, stakeholders, government officials and industry leaders who have worked on this task force over the past two years for providing insightful and strategic recommendations on what actions our State can take to connect communities by expanding access. , adoption, and affordability of the Internet for families, businesses, and individuals in our state. »

Rebecca Cameron Valcq, chairwoman of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, said the report continues to highlight barriers to connecting everyone in the state.

“Removing barriers to broadband access, affordability and use is necessary to ensure that all can enjoy its benefits,” she said. “By making the investments and taking the actions recommended in this report and in last year’s reports, our communities will be well on their way to being all connected.

Among the task force’s recommendations for 2022 are continued funding for the state’s broadband expansion program; better connect state agencies, local governments and Internet service providers; helping tribal communities expand Internet service; and do a better job of guiding local governments through the process of planning and building projects.

The challenge for expanding broadband access now is that the hardest-to-reach parts of the state make up most of what’s left and those areas contain some of the poorest residents of the state. ‘State. About 42% of all Wisconsin households with less than $20,000 in annual income do not have a high-speed Internet subscription, the report says.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is that existing fiber optic cable networks are not built very efficiently, making it difficult to connect these networks to homes and businesses.

This “central mile” of the Internet system is the infrastructure that connects the national Internet network and the direct connections to people’s homes.

“The task force believes that better coordination of the construction and use of intermediate routes within the state could lead to more efficient use of scarce fiber resources,” the report said.

According to the report, in the last round of broadband expansion grants, 11 projects in the middle mile received a grant, but to better improve this system as a whole, the task force recommends facilitating cooperation between owners. mid-mile fiber lines and the ISPs are bringing the internet to homes and encouraging communities to think regionally about their internet infrastructure, not just how many homes within local boundaries have access.

In large part, the report highlights the huge amount of federal funding that has gone into expanding broadband access across the country and notes that the state must do all it can to don’t waste the “once-in-a-generation funding opportunity”.

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