The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of broadband as employees needed it to work from home and students needed it to complete their schooling. Many regions — especially in rural areas — do not have access to reliable and affordable broadband.
A new joint program between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the state Public Service Commission will provide six communities with technical assistance so they are better prepared to apply for broadband expansion funds.
“One of the clearest lessons of the past year is that broadband is now as essential to daily life as electricity,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that broadband provides a critical link to the outside world, whether it’s for education, business or health care — yet many parts of Wisconsin still have either no access, limited access or high-cost access.”
Hughes said WEDC identified broadband as one of the three key opportunities to help Wisconsin businesses recover from the pandemic. Broadband access, speed and affordability has been cited repeatedly by participants during the recent listening sessions held by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity. Navigating broadband expansion can be challenging, and local capacity is often stretched thin — even more so as communities deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pilot, which will run from late September to late December, will help communities prepare to apply for future state, federal and private funds as they are made available. Applications to participate in the pilot will be accepted from Sept. 21-30, and eligible applicants include local governments (towns, villages, cities and counties), school districts and tribal nations. To learn more, click here.