The state of Wisconsin is looking ahead to 2021 and taking steps to expand its broadband outreach. The 2021 Broadband Expansion Grant should free up $24 million in funding for high-speed broadband internet for unserved and underserved areas of the state, reports WisBusiness.com. The announcement was made by Governor Tony Evers and Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcquez.
“We are strongly committed to the continued equitable expansion of broadband services to meet the needs of all communities and residents in Wisconsin,” Valcquez stated. “Access to high-speed broadband internet is essential for participation in modern society and to achieve community, public safety, learning, health, and economic goals in Wisconsin.”
Governor Evers agreed, saying, “With many working from home, some of our kids and educators doing distance learning, and accessing healthcare through telemedicine sometimes as the only option, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how critically important broadband is to our state.” He added, “We need to use this funding to target those most affected by this pandemic and get them connected.”
Wisconsin has provided 210 broadband grants since 2014. So far, 7,000 businesses and 117,000 homes have, or will soon have, high-speed broadband internet service. The funding allotted for 2021 is equal to the 2020 grant. Each of the 2020 and 2021 funding amounts exceeds the amounts available from all the seven previous rounds combined.
The 2019 – 2021 budget, previously approved by Governor Evers, received 143 applications for broadband outreach in 2020. Last March, 72 of those applications were granted to extend high-speed internet service to up to 3,182 businesses and 46,537 homes, many of which had no prior service. Wisconsin is ready to keep the ball rolling with additional funds to be released in 2021.