Future Economic Expansion At Stake With Pending Forest Co. Broadband Grant

Jan 2, 2020

Credit Pixabay.com jarmoluk


Forest county residents will be watching an expected February announcement from the state about grants to expand broadband.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is considering nearly $50 million in higher-speed internet requests across the state. The state is said to have about $24 million to share.

Director of the Forest County Economic Partnership, Mark Ferris, says they've been working with provider Northwoods Connect to make broadband available to all county residents. He says it's a challenge because the county is large and many people live in remote areas.

The county has submitted a request for $1.8 million...

"The county's portion is $750,000. We've had great cooperation from the county board, our Forest county towns association, Native American tribes. We'll get the response, approval or denial, in February..."

He says if approved, there would be broadband access for 90 percent of the residents. While a fiber project is eyed for the Lake Metonga area, Ferris says they want to set up towers elsewhere, also to aid emergency medical services...

"The balance of the county, we're looking at 17 new towers that will go up and it will be a microwave-based 4G. One of the big factors is we will now make, assuming we receive the grant, is we will be able to connect all of our emergency services, which has been huge problem in the county..."

Ferris says broadband expansion is key to economic development in the county.

The Forest County Broadband Commission is meeting Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the county board room to talk about the grant status and other topics.