High-speed internet service is as important as any public utility, Gale Price believes.
When businesses consider putting down roots in Janesville, one of the first questions asked is about internet access, said Price, the city’s economic development director.
When Dollar General built its Janesville distribution center, the company chose its location on Beloit Avenue because it had access to AT&T’s fiber optic network, Price said.
The city plans to apply for a $114,229 grant from the Public Service Commission’s Broadband Expansion Grant Program. The grant would cover half the $228,459 price tag to expand fiber optic infrastructure to the city’s south-side industrial park between Beloit Avenue and Highway 51 and to the future Centennial Industrial Park at the former General Motors plant site.
The city council on Monday gave the OK for staff to apply for the grant.
The other half of the project could be paid for with $89,229 from WIN Technology, a fiber optic network owned by 31 Wisconsin-based telephone companies, and $25,000 in TIF funds, according to a city memo.
The city is working with the tech company to provide cash to match the grant, according to a memo.
Connecting to a fiber optic network provides faster internet at costs that are lower than similar services provided by Charter or AT&T, Price said.
Expanding the city’s fiber optic network to the industrial park also is a step toward a larger goal: providing a community-area network to all city facilities and parks, Price said.
The community-area network would be overseen and operated by a private entity, Price said.
Eau Claire’s public facilities operate on a community network, and that’s a model Janesville is looking to mimic, Price said.
Many city facilities already are connected to a fiber optic network, but some more remote facilities, such as Fire Station No. 5 on Newport Avenue, are not connected, Price said.
City workers need high-speed internet to work efficiently, he said.
In addition, internet access would allow the city to set up security cameras and bathrooms with time locks in parks, two goals outlined in the 2020-24 strategic plan.