Broadband Internet access could boost growth of rural Wisconsin
Even as America recovers from the recession, it’s apparent to those of us working in rural communities that a critical element to a lasting recovery is the availability of broadband Internet access. Many rural communities rely on an aging telecommunications infrastructure and have inadequate utility services.
President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack understand that folks in small towns and rural communities are important parts of our economic base and will help lead the way to a healthy, balanced economy for our nation.
I support the president’s goal of giving all citizens a fair shot. Especially those in rural America—where our values as a nation and our “can do” attitude as a people are rooted. USDA Rural Development has made record infrastructure investments that strengthen the rural economy, support communities and maximize opportunities for folks who call rural America home—including many here in Wisconsin.
For example, TDS Communications of Monroe broke ground on a broadband expansion project that will impact consumers in areas surrounding South Wayne, Browntown, Woodford and rural Green County. The project will bring high-speed DSL service to over 800 new users, including homes, businesses and critical community institutions.
Since 2009, USDA has invested in new and improved broadband service for nearly 7 million rural Americans and more than 360,000 rural businesses—including 3,000 rural Wisconsin businesses. When these projects are completed, they spur businesses to invest in communities and help drive job growth. They create jobs during construction and even more jobs when the networks are operating and available to rural communities and their residents.
Over the past 3½ years, with support and financing from the Obama administration, USDA Rural Development has contributed to the overall revitalization of Wisconsin’s rural infrastructure. Federal resources have been invested in more than 125 community facilities, including town halls, libraries, clinics, police and fire stations, serving nearly 1 million rural Wisconsinites. Through distance learning and telemedicine programs in more than 150 Wisconsin schools and 13 medical facilities, the administration has improved the availability of health care and educational opportunity for rural families all across the state.
Under President Obama, USDA has helped modernize rural electric systems for nearly 4,000 Wisconsin residents with funding for more than 237 miles of new or upgraded electric lines. And we’ve invested in more than 116 water and wastewater treatment projects across the state to safeguard the health of 58,200 rural residents.
These stories are playing out across the country. So while we all recognize America is in a time that requires fiscal belt-tightening, we also know that smart, targeted investments are needed to give rural businesses and communities the tools they need to compete in the global market.
President Obama and Secretary Vilsack are keenly aware of how important rural America is to the strength of our nation and the long-term future of our economy. With their support, USDA Rural Development is committed to ensuring that hard-working people across Wisconsin’s rural landscape can look to the future and not fear being left behind.
Stan Gruszynski is Wisconsin state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, 4949 Kirschling Court, Stevens Point, WI 54481. Readers can reach him at (715) 345-7600.