Wisconsin To Receive More Than $500 Million For Broadband Upgrades
Three Wisconsin companies are slated to receive $570 million in funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—the second-largest award made to any state—under the Connect America Fund Phase II, the second round of federal funding for broadband infrastructure development.
The funds were offered to three Wisconsin telecommunications providers—AT&T, Frontier and CenturyLink—to be used over the next five years to extend Internet service to unserved and underserved parts of the state, primarily small towns and rural areas that don’t yet have 10 Mbps Internet options.
As a condition of accepting the funds, the providers agreed to devote private sector capital to the upgrade project, and ultimately to provide a download speed of at least 10 Mbps and an upload speed of 1 Mbps. The FCC is spending more than $10 billion nationwide under this grant program.
“Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society – for all Americans,” the FCC notes in its explanation of the program. Expanding broadband access “will not only drive economic growth in rural America, but will expand the online marketplace nationwide, creating jobs and business opportunities across the country.”
In particular, the improvements are expected to bring growth to areas of the state where perhaps businesses have been reluctant to locate due to the lack of high-speed Internet availability.
“The service deployments to be carried out by AT&T, Frontier and CenturyLink target 230,000 rural homes and businesses that are currently unserved or underserved,” says Bill Esbeck, executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association (WSTA). “When these locations are connected with improved Internet options, it will bring Wisconsin very close to 100 percent coverage for Internet connections of at least 10 Mbps.”
“We are pleased that these three providers decided to accept the funds offered to them by the FCC,” says Esbeck. “The FCC covers only a small portion of the cost to install fiber-optic cable. These companies have committed additional capital to improve Wisconsin’s Internet infrastructure, and we applaud them for that.”
“If business is to thrive in Wisconsin, high-speed Internet connectivity must be given the same priority as more traditional types of infrastructure such as roads and water supply,” says Danielle Jones of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC’s) Division of Sector Strategy Development. “These upgrades will make an important contribution to Wisconsin’s business climate, enhancing the state’s appeal as a place to do business—especially for areas outside large cities.”
In addition to working together to develop strategies for encouraging the expansion of broadband coverage across the state, WEDC and the WSTA maintain an interactive online map of the state’s gigabit office parks to help businesses receive accurate and up-to-date information about Internet service to inform their location decisions.