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Gov. Evers emphasizes need to expand broadband into rural areas in Shawano County stop

The governor says Wisconsin is falling behind neighboring state Minnesota on its investment in rural broadband.
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 6:07 PM CDT
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SHAWANO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Governor Tony Evers announced during this year’s state of the state address that he was committed to expanding broadband access in rural communities, and he continued hitting that point home on Friday.

He was in Shawano for a roundtable discussion on expanding health care access by investing in high-speed internet. Shawano County recently used a state grant to increase the availability of wireless internet.

“Just from the economic development point of view, broadband, especially in the rural areas, is almost as important and powerful as electricity,” Governor Evers said.

Despite the increase in accessibility, local officials said the wireless expansion still wasn’t enough to reach every area of the county.

“In a lot of ways, we’re waiting on the state to come up with the monetary piece of this and then be able to get the providers to put that service in,” Shawano County Administrative Coordinator Jim Davel said.

In 2013, the state created the broadband expansion grant to help rural communities with the Public Service Commission (PSC) in charge of distributing those funds.

Gov. Evers proposed in his budget investing $200 million in broadband access, with $150 million going to the expansion grant and the remaining $50 million helping people who can’t afford the high cost of internet.

At Friday’s event, the governor said he will use some of the COVID-19 relief funds on broadband expansion.

“Our Republican legislators, they get it. They live in rural areas many of them and they understand how important it is,” Gov. Evers said.

On the same day of this visit, Kewaunee County announced a $1.4 million grant from the PSC to expand high speed internet access for residents and businesses.

“Broadband is now the fourth utility. You don’t have a house without water. you don’t have a house without gas for heat, you don’t [go without] electricity,” Kewaunee County Administrator Scott Feldt said.

The funds will be used to build a 61.7-mile fiber route through Kewaunee County.

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