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Forum Focuses on Northwoods Broadband Needs

Putting together ways to provide faster internet to underserved areas of the Northwoods was the topic of a forum held recently in the White Pine Room at WXPR.

People from a private Internet provider, government, non-profit coalitions, tribal representatives, and education discussed the need for economic development and connecting to the outside world.

Rob Riordan from Cellcom says in the early days of telephone, the government required a little extra from customers to be able to help serve areas without service. That model could work for broadband...

"...if you just let the haves get what they want and you don't let the have nots get anything you're going to have an entire society that does not grow. In the U.S. what we did was take a little bit from everybody and put it into a pool that couldn't afford it and could build an infrastructure...."

Don Sidlowski from Three Lakes is involved in several non-profit efforts to bring more broadband here...

"...the main message we've been delivering to local units of governments, chambers of commerce, economic development groups and to the business community is a building community capacity model which is change and commit. They have to change the way they think about broadband and then made the resources available to make change happen..."

Joni Theobald, broadband Director for the Lac du Flambeau tribe, says education is necessary...

"....but what we're finding is technology-wise....we've been quite far behind and its building that knowledge base. Getting the capabilities we have, having the same shared goal, bring business in and keep our tourism businesses alive...."

State Representative Rob Swearingen says money was returned to the budget after it was deleted to fund greater broadband access...

"...we were under the impression we were going to lose that money that was allocated for broadband so I got together with some rural legislators and we penned a letter to the co-chairs of Joint Finance (Committee) and we were able to restore funding into the broadband system..."

Oneida County UW-Extension agent Tim Brown says they've been out educating government officials and businesses about the new technology. He cites the I-Phone which is six years old...

"....the I-phone is very new technology. All the ways we have been doing business... education...it's a new concept and for communities, for businesses, for individuals who have been living their lives, doing business, doing education the same way for decades, these concepts are new and they need some help...."

The hour-long program will be on WXPR Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. and a repeat Sunday at noon. The program will also be on the WXPR.org website.  

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