Rural Provider Says Broadband Grants Make A Difference

From marketing your agribusiness to doing your schoolwork — broadband is not a luxury, it’s a requirement. Bringing high-speed internet to rural Wisconsin has been a focus at both the state and federal levels, and rural providers want to see it continue. 

Millions of dollars have trickled down to providers to not just lay the fiber, but get what’s called the ‘last mile’ of service to the end user. 

Marquette-Adams Telephone Cooperative is one of the providers that has benefited from grant dollars to get internet service into homes. CEO Darren Moser says the grants have been crucial to bridge the broadband gap.

MATC has received 15 grants over the last 5-7 years totaling more than $12 million. They’ve done $21 million of construction connecting high-speed internet to about 3,400 locations.

It costs about $6,200 per location in rural Wisconsin. It takes several years to get an investment back, and it takes several more years to get operating costs back before seeing a return on investment, explains Moser.

“Without funds, construction would not get done,” he says.

The most expensive thing about installing fiber – labor.

“Contractors are at a premium,” Moser notes.

He says other challenges that have popped up include inflation and delays due to interactions with rare species (lizards, turtles, butterflies).

Marquette and Adams counties are very rural. With broadband infrastructure, farmers can use video monitoring for their facilities, students can learn from home, and family businesses can advertise. Moser has also seen e-sports take off – electronic sports are a new way for students to get involved in team sports, and earn scholarships to continue their education.

Mose says rural communities “want access to the same information that everybody else does.” He hopes to see more grants in the future to reach more areas.