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Wisconsin broadband Internet access continues to grow

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Thad Nation
February 23, 2010

The announcement made by Gov. Doyle this month that Wisconsin has received $23 million in federal funding—combined with a state match of $5.7 million—to help provide broadband Internet access across the state is great news for Wisconsin.


The governor announced the funding—received as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—at the Brown County Central Library, one of 467 sites in more than 380 communities across the state to receive portions of the funding. Among the locations receiving funding are 74 schools, eight post-secondary schools—including two tribal colleges—and 385 libraries statewide.


In addition to the sites gaining access to broadband, the project also opens the door for additional broadband expansion. The vast majority of recipients are within a few miles of police stations, fire stations and hospitals, and more than 125,000 households are within the market area of the sites receiving funding.


Expanding Internet access—and particularly broadband access—is one of the best ways to foster economic development, support additional educational opportunities and increase connections between citizens across the state, particularly in rural areas.


A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that economic growth is significantly higher in areas with access to broadband than in those without, and broadband connectivity is instrumental in attracting investment dollars to rural areas and allowing those rural areas to compete for jobs in many industry sectors.


The same study also found that broadband Internet access allows rural students to engage in otherwise unavailable educational opportunities, including online courses and direct telecommunications with teachers and advisors.


That’s why Wired Wisconsin has made broadband deployment one of our key issues. Increasing access to broadband services is a surefire way to encourage economic development, improve educational services, and make Wisconsin more marketable for potential employers and residents alike.


Wisconsin already is among the top ranked states in the nation in terms of Internet use by individuals.


The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data that show the state is ninth in the country for individuals that access the Internet from some location at 74.9 percent, and 10th in terms of individuals living in households with internet access at 78.8 percent. Those figures put Wisconsin well above the national average for the two categories, which are 68.4 percent and 73.5 percent, respectively.


All of this news bodes well for Wisconsin’s future economic growth.


By building on Wisconsin’s existing infrastructure—already some of the best in the nation—and expanding broadband Internet access across all 72 counties, we can ensure our state has a solid foundation to grow our economy and create new jobs throughout Wisconsin.


Thad Nation is executive director of Wired Wisconsin, the Wisconsin-based project of Midwest Consumers for Choice and Competition, a nonprofit organization of individual consumers interested in technology, broadband, and telecommunication issues with state projects throughout the Midwest region. Nation can be reached at (414) 344-1733.

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