As the need for access to broadband continues to grow, Wisconsin lawmakers are proposing to do something about it with the potential for grant money in this years budget.  That money could translate into funding for a proposed broadband expansion project in Douglas County.

Access to broadband has never been more important.  The COVID-19 Pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the need for high-speed internet as people started working from home and school for children largely went virtual.  While there has always been a need (and a growing demand) for broadband access, 2020 magnified it.  This is especially true in rural areas - like Douglas County - where many people don't have direct access to the internet - not to mention high-speed broadband.

The process started at the state level last month, when the 2021-2023 biennial budget included nearly $200 million in broadband service to be spread over the next two years. According to news sources, that dollar amount is "five times the amount invested in the last three biennial budgets combined".

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A project to help deliver improved broadband access to Douglas County is included in the funding grant plans.  All told, 124 projects are in line to be included for consideration for a share of $24 million in so-called "broadband expansion grants".  News sources detail that this is the largest request for grants in the history of the State of Wisconsin.

Officials caution the general public about being too-overly optimistic.  "The state's broadband office sees requests that total more than double the funding available".

Improvements to the broadband service in Douglas County couldn't come at a better time.  According to reports:

"A PSC (Public Services Commission) map of Douglas County shows large swaths where no internet service is available, and others where internet speeds are less than 3Mpbs.

 

With education, business, telehealth visits, and work all taking place over the digital highway simultaneously, speed matters.  At a download speed of up to 4Mbps, a household would be able to browse the internet and receive low-quality pre-recorded video and audio with one device, but if a second device was added, they would only be able to access email and text-based browsing".

Currently, Douglas County ranks 69 out of 72 counties when comparing rural broadband access.

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