(Beaver Dam) State legislators agree that getting high-speed internet to underserved parts of Wisconsin is a priority; funding broadband is another story.
The governor has indicated that as much as $200-million in discretionary spending would be directed to broadband from federal COVID relief funds. Republicans including State Representative Mark Born are pushing legislation that says the funding should be closer to $500-million. He told us Friday on WBEV’s Community Comment that the governor needs to be bigger and bolder.
The Beaver Dam Republican says the matching grant program through the Public Service Commission coupled with investments from private telecoms would get the state one billion dollars over four years, enough to reach 90-percent of Wisconsin.
Estimates indicate that it would take about one-billion-dollars to secure broadband throughout 90-to-95-percent of the Badger State. Unfortunately, Born says it will take another billion dollars or more to get the final outliers and bring that up to 100-percent.
“It’s a tricky number to arrive at,” he says of the total price tag for statewide broadband.
Evers did include $200-million for broadband in his biennial budget, which Republicans say is being completely rewritten. The governor, meanwhile, is expected to veto the Republican bill that seeks to control the COVID relief funds.
It has been reported that 430-thousand people, roughly 25–percent of the state’s rural population, does not have access to high-speed internet. Wisconsin ranks 36th in the nation for accessibility in rural areas.