Gov. Tony Evers announced on Thursday, October 15, that six rural communities were selected for a broadband pilot program. The program — the new Broadband Connectors Pilot program cohort — is a collaboration between the state Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to help underserved areas apply for broadband funding.
“As families, business owners, and communities across the state continue to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for affordable, accessible high-speed broadband is perhaps more important now than ever,” said Gov. Evers. “This joint program will provide critical support and resources to help local communities get connected.”
The joint pilot program will help provide technical assistance to help communities apply for federal, state, and private-sector broadband expansion funds. According to Rebecca Cameron Valcq, Chairperson of the PSC, many communities lack resources to apply for funding. “This pilot program shows promise to push through that barrier, allowing communities to take steps to connect their residents more quickly,” she said.
WEDC has identified broadband as one of the three key opportunities to help Wisconsin businesses recover from the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated significant gaps in broadband coverage in Wisconsin’s rural communities, making e-learning, telecommuting, telehealth, and online sales difficult or impossible in many parts of the state.
As a result, 96 applications were received from across the state, requesting to be part of the pilot. Local governments, tribal governments, and school districts were eligible to apply for the pilot program from September 21-30, 2020.
Pilot program participants were selected based on the following criteria:
- the community has taken some initial steps toward broadband expansion
- diverse community partners have committed to working together on broadband expansion
- the community has a clear vision for the technical assistance they are seeking
- the community seeks to expand broadband in an underserved or unserved area
Six communities were selected for the Broadband Connectors Pilot program, including:
- Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
- Ho-Chunk Nation
- School District of Owen-Withee
- Town of Cross
- St Croix County
- Fond du Lac County
The pilot program intends to help WEDC and PSC better understand the technical needs communities struggle with and provide assistance. The pilot program results will be incorporated into a Wisconsin Broadband Playbook, creating a roadmap to provide ongoing assistance to communities.
The post New Broadband Connectors Pilot Program Receives A Flood Of Applicants appeared first on Inside Towers.