“The pace of Broadband expansion in Wisconsin is too slow to keep up with our changing economy,” Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, said today when introducing legislation to increase the state’s investment in Broadband and remove limitations on what local governments can do.
“We must speed up the expansion of Broadband substantially in Wisconsin if we want to keep pace with the demand. Applicants for a state Broadband expansion grant from my home county of Buffalo have been told by the state that the process is very competitive. There are 100 applications. Only 15 will be funded. And these are not large grants,” Vinehout said.
“If we want the Wisconsin economy to thrive we have to start getting serious about Broadband. If we just keep doing what we are doing, it will take five more years to fund just the projects that are ready to go now.”
Vinehout’s Move Broadband Forward plan provides $100 million a year in state grant dollars in each of the next two years. Costly and time-consuming roadblocks to municipalities starting their own Broadband service are removed.
Any service that advertises itself as “Broadband” must consistently allow users to download at 25 mbps (megabits per second) and upload at 3 mbps.
Another provision allows local governments to require installation of empty conduit lines for future installation of fiber optic lines as part of road and sidewalk projects. “This ‘dig once’ provision could save up to 90 percent of the cost of installing fiber optic later,” Vinehout said.
“Wisconsin has not been serious about expanding Broadband. The Governor returned $23 million in federal stimulus money in 2011. Since 2014 Wisconsin has approved only $3.9 million in Broadband expansion grants. Minnesota spent $85 million over that same time.
“Adding only $11 million in this budget will not do much,” Vinehout said.
“Wisconsin is lagging the nation badly in Broadband services. According to the tech firm Speedtest, in 2016 Wisconsin was ranked 49th in internet speeds. A recent FCC report says 13% of Wisconsinites have no Broadband provider.”
Vinehout, who is running for Governor as a Democrat, pays for her Moving Broadband Forward program by taking some of the money that now goes to funding the Manufacturing Tax Credit.
“This administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Manufacturing Tax Credit with little to show for it. Expanding Broadband is a much better use of those dollars. Many more people and businesses will benefit,” Vinehout said.
“Real broadband is an essential service for families, for students, and for businesses. It will do far more to keep and attract young people to Wisconsin than the Governor’s advertising campaign in Chicago.”
Greg Leaf, email@example.com, 715-381-0123