Broadband access in Door County (WI )is weak due to challenges in both topography (rolling hills and thick forests) and county ordinances, reported the Green Bay Press-Gazette. So, in 2014, entrepreneur Kevin Voss created Door County Broadband to help close the broadband access gap.
Just how weak is broadband in the county? The Press-Gazette reported that people have turned down home-owning options, and current residents say family members won’t visit due to inadequate internet service.
Door County Broadband is trying to bring more access to the area, especially since satellites don’t cut it. According to Voss, satellite works “fine” for one-way communication, like basic streaming and receiving emails. However, if satellite users stream in large volumes, the cost “can go through the roof.” Additionally, there’s typically a lag in satellite connection compared to the quick response time of land-based internet.
For Voss’s team, the strategy for building towers to cut through the tree lines includes a line of big towers and smaller towers branching off like ribs – think of it as a “human spine,” Voss noted. The smaller towers have to be tall enough to “see” the taller towers, which means they must overcome trees and other obstacles.
Voss noted that coupled with trying to get signals through the dense tree-scape, a 2015 county ordinance makes it difficult to erect towers. The current ordinance states that all towers are the same, and it groups cellular, radio transmission, and fixed wireless towers into the same regulations. Voss’s company uses fixed wireless towers, which are typically only 18-to-24-inches across, much different than a typical cell tower.
Some towns are taking tower rules into their own hands, with nearly half of Door County municipalities opting out of the county’s ordinance. These towns have now created their own rules regarding towers. The localities that opted out, along with Door County Broadband, believe access to the internet is a “critical utility” and affects all aspects of the county – tourism, medical care, and children in school.
Regarding funding for rural broadband, the county applied for eight grants through Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission, reported the Press-Gazette. Last September, Gov. Tony Evers announced the state had allocated $24 million to provide broadband grants in 2020, primarily for unserved or under-served areas.
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