Vilas County Broadband Committee Starts Work, Focuses on Grants Options

Jul 21, 2021

Credit PIXABAY.COM

A Vilas County ad hoc broadband committee met for the first time last week and learned about upload and download speeds and the need for expanded broadband coverage to better serve persons working from homes in the county.

“My goal is to provide enough broadband service so people can work from their homes remotely,” committee chairman Jerry Burkett said. “We have people staying up here not due so much to COVID but due to the unrest in communities. We can expand our population base and have more people work remotely.”

ChoiceTel president in Eagle River, Ted Bogeman, installs fiber connections and indicated upload and download speeds via copper “can be 100 bits down but only 10 up whereas fiber can be 100 both up and down.”

Grants were received by both St. Germain and Land O’ Lakes and they were tracked, according to committee member Carl Ruedebusch.

“We have uneven rates going from $274 per household in St. Germain to $3,683 in Boulder Junction,” Ruedebusch said. “We need Vilas County to control development to get rid of uneven rates.”

But county board chairman Ron DeBruyne felt it “would be difficult for the county to jump in when we have towns already doing it.”

To get a fiber network to cover 90% of Vilas County, or more, would require anywhere from 100 to 140 miles to be buried.

Committee member Joe Laux felt a grant application for July would not be finalized “and we need to have clarification of what roll the county will be . . .the board needs to get jelled around a concept.”

Vilas County has been approved for $4.3 million in local fiscal recovery funds and half is received but the county needs to report by the end of 2024 what it will be used for. Broadband for current unserved or undeserved communities is an eligible expense.

The committee agreed communication and commitment from each town is needed and will invite every town clerk and town chairman to a meeting to share planning. The committee set August 6 at 10:30 am to for their next meeting.