The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access Report details strategies to expand affordable, high-speed internet to everyone by 2025 — and it’s in Gov. Tony Evers’ hands.
“I declared 2021 as the ‘Year of Broadband Access’ because getting Wisconsinites access to high-speed internet is critical for our state’s continued economic recovery,” the guv said. “… The recommendations included in this report will help us take the next steps toward getting folks connected.”
According to the 2021 Broadband Deployment Report by the Federal Communications Commission, roughly 394,900 people in Wisconsin lack access to quality broadband service. Wisconsin ranks No. 36 nationwide for broadband access in rural areas with 21.8 percent being unserved or underserved.
The task force, created during the pandemic, consists of experts, stakeholders and public officials who met virtually the past 10 months. The task force heard from outside experts and the public to help members identify broadband policies to close the digital divide in the state.
Among others, the Task Force report included recommendations to:
Increase funding for the Broadband Expansion Grant Program to help offset the costs for internet service providers and other applicants to serve difficult to reach areas;
Establish a State Internet Assistance Program to lower the cost to obtain service and aid low-income families in sustaining internet service;
Create a Planning and Implementation Grants Program to help regions and communities plan for broadband expansion;
Increase construction and permitting coordination to streamline the process for providers to expand in a community;
Collect internet access data from all ISPs at a household and business level of granularity to clarify who has reliable, high-speed access;
Increase broadband consumer protections and pricing transparency so that people know what service they should expect and get what they are paying for; and
Develop and fund a Statewide Digital Navigator program to assist people who are underserved due to inadequate service and solve a wide range of internet adoption issues.
“Since 2019, our state has allocated nearly $60 million for broadband expansion, which, once built will connect or improve service to tens of thousands of families and businesses,” said Rebecca Cameron Valcq, chairperson of the Public Service Commission. “Over the next few years, we stand to more than quadruple that number.”
See the report: https://psc.wi.gov/Documents/broadband/2021%20Governors%20Task%20Force%20on%20Broadband%20Access.pdf