Today’s leaders have a similar opportunity to help Wisconsin’s business owners connect to the larger world.
We should improve broadband access by repealing burdensome restrictions on Wisconsin municipalities and by increasing grant funding to keep pace with other states.
Broadband access is vital to business, education, and health care.
Broadband internet has a direct impact on economic activity: it creates new business opportunities, improves business flexibility, and increases employment. Broadband can bring innovative strategies into school classrooms, and students and new graduates can get better jobs if they’re proficient in internet technologies. 1,2
Broadband access is lacking in Wisconsin’s small towns and rural areas.
The FCC estimates that 23% of rural Wisconsin residents lack access to broadband internet. Even more Wisconsinites lack access to the higher speeds typically required for businesses and hospitals.
Broadband infrastructure is expensive to build in sparsely populated areas; without broad public and private sector support, rural areas and economies will be chronically underserved. 5
Wisconsin lags behind other states in broadband funding.
The State of Wisconsin recently allocated $4.3 million to expanding rural broadband access and approved annual payments of $500,000. While these allocations improve the state’s funding of broadband access projects, the state lags far behind neighboring Minnesota and other states. 6
Wisconsin state law curtails municipalities’ ability to effectively craft solutions to increase broadband access.
Wisconsin State Statute 66 (2003) places onerous hurdles in the way of local governments that would like to take the initiative to provide access to their residents. Repealing these restrictions is a crucial step toward expanding Wisconsin businesses’ and residents’ broadband access. 7