Vilas County receives $5.4 million in grants to expand broadband
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission recently awarded $125 million in grants for broadband expansion projects. That includes $5.4 million spread across three projects in Vilas County.
A $2.6 million grant will bring broadband to nearly 1,000 homes and businesses across Arbor Vitae, Cloverland, Conover and Lincoln. Another, for $1.9 million, will do the same for the Town of Presque Isle. And a third $1.8 million grant will connect the Town of Washington.
“This is a phenomenal step forward to continue to evolve Vilas County as a broadband destination for people who can and want to pursue their careers here,” says Jim Tuckwell, the board chairman of the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation.
He says the VCEDC has made broadband a priority ever since COVID forced people to work remotely.
“The strategy we have to diversify and grow our economy really leverages Vilas County’s strengths,” he says. “Forty-three percent of the county is open to the public in the form of county, state or federal forests. And with over 1,300 lakes and 70 streams and rivers, we have one of the densest concentrations of fresh water in the world. So, to enable to work from home or to open a new small business, having broadband access really provides access to doing business globally.”
The number of remote workers has increased in Vilas County, but Tuckwell is hoping the number goes up even more.
That’s why VCEDC created a volunteer working group to work individually with communities across Vilas County on strategies to improve broadband.
Tuckwell says these grants are the culmination of that effort. Work on the projects is expected to begin in late 2022.
Oneida County also received a $2.8 million grant from the PSC to build a 220-mile fiber ring, connecting 300 businesses and nearly 6,000 residents.
Langlade County received $1.4 million to expand fiber to 15 businesses and 500 residential locations.