Brown County encouraging people to take speed test to help expand broadband
BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says 35% of people who live in rural areas of the United States lack access to broadband. and in an effort to keep people connected, Brown County leaders have been working on a plan to expand broadband to rural areas.
Last week, the federal government came out with interim guidelines on how counties can use money from the American Rescue plan to expand broadband access.
The guidance from the federal government focuses on using the money to expand access in areas where the upload speeds are impacted by geographical areas and financial constraints.
The county is expected to get $51 million from the American Rescue Plan, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The Department of Treasury indicates the funds could be used to expand broadband infrastructure.
Brown County’s Rural Broadband Committee is also one step closer in finding service providers to partner with.
“We’re building an RFI, or a request for information, that is intended for us to find partners so that if funding is approved for any of the sources, it will allow us to move ahead more quickly,” said August Neverman, chief information officer for Brown County.
The committee got it’s first look at the RFI at it’s meeting on Monday May, 17.
“I’m hopeful that our next meeting two months from now, we’ll have a far greater idea of what services we can bring to Brown County in the next six months to a year,” said Supervisor Richard Schadewald.
Schadewald would like to use a portion of the county’s money from the American Rescue Plan to expand broadband access.
At the time of this report, the county has not received the funds yet and leaders are waiting to see how the money can be used.
“Is that exclusively for residential use? Is it for reimbursement? Is it only for schools? Is it only for governments? We don’t know right now, so we’re waiting on treasury guidance,” said Neverman.
In the meantime, county leaders continue to gather information from telecoms and the public. Part of that is encouraging people to take the county’s speed test.
“So, for providers trying to make a decision about improving services in a particular area, they can use that map,” said Neverman. “It also is used to prove if services are needed or are available in a particular area.”
Neverman hopes people, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the county, will take the test.
“If we could get 382 people to take the test in those rural areas, it would really help us out,” said Neverman.
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