The Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill today that would devote $35 million to expand broadband in rural areas of the state. State Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield, served on the state’s study committee for rural broadband last year. Meyers said the bill is a good first step toward bringing high-speed internet to residents and students in rural Wisconsin. “We’re looking at $11.5 million from the universal service fund, $15.5 million from the Public Service Commission and $7.5 million for the TEACH program toward eligible rural school districts,” she said. The bill directs the Public Service Commission to weigh proposed broadband expansion projects on whether they would improve high-speed internet service for students or people receiving home care. Meyers said an amendment to use the federal definition of rural areas didn’t make it into the bill. “The emphasis of this funding is to be spent in unserved and underserved areas, and I’m really looking forward to seeing this money come to northern Wisconsin and specifically the 74th Assembly District,” she said. The bill will now be taken up by the State Senate for approval.
The Public Service Commission received 37 applications to expand broadband in rural Wisconsin last year – a 32 percent increase from the number of applications received in 2015.
Roughly 710,000 people in rural Wisconsin lack access to higher download speeds, according to the Federal Communications Commission.