After declaring 2021 as the “Year of Broadband Access” for Wisconsin, Gov. Evers is continuing the push towards expanding broadband internet access for both rural residents as well as other underserved communities and businesses through $23,483,769 in grants for six county projects.
The grant project draws from Gov. Evers’s $100 million investment plan backed by the American Rescue Plan Act and is expected to provide or expand internet access to more than 3,400 residential and 200 business locations in Crawford, Sauk, Iowa, Richland, and Ashland counties.
“We know the digital divide is holding our state back and that access to reliable internet connectivity is not a luxury, but a necessity,” noted Gov. Evers earlier this year.
Broadband internet access has become an especially pertinent issue in the last few years due to the pandemic and the rise of digital learning and remote working.
Of the roughly 23 million in grants, $6,041,269 will be allocated to the Bad River Tribe to ensure that 260 homes and 10 businesses will have access to fiber broadband internet, with the goal of providing internet access for the majority of homes within the reservation.
Crawford County is expected to see the second highest amount in grants, receiving $5,697,500, followed by White Mound receiving $3,757,500, and Witwen receiving $3,600,000. Meanwhile, Happy Hill and Iowa County are set to receive $2,362,500 and $2,025,000, respectively.
Communities and businesses in Wisconsin are set to receive more investments in the future, with grants awarded for 83 projects last year that aim at providing internet access to over 28,000 residential and 1,490 business locations in the state.
Wisconsin has seen almost fifteen times more investments in expanding internet access for residents during Gov. Evers’s tenure as governor. Since 2019, more than 300,000 homes and businesses with poor quality access or no internet access have been provided with high-quality broadband internet.
As of January 2022, there remains an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 households without broadband internet access in the state, with Evers planning to draw from both funding from the federal infrastructure bill as well as state budgets towards alleviating the issue of access in the state.
“Having grown up, lived, and taught in rural communities, I know how important it is to stay connected for our kids’ education and for our small businesses,” noted Gov. Evers.