Broadband

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The cabin sits on U.S. Highway 8 between Crandon and Laona.

When Johnnie Aschenbrenner was growing up, it was his home. Despite being on a major highway, there were no power lines until 1962, so the family used generators for electricity.

Nowadays, the cabin has an updated yet rustic feel, and Aschenbrenner rents it out as part of his small resort on Wabikon Lake. It’s literally connected to the tiny bar Aschenbrenner also owns. All told, resort guests can expect a pretty modern experience, DIRECTV included.

Except for one thing.

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The internet connection was working as expected at Coontail Market in Boulder Junction on Tuesday.

The grocery, convenience, and outdoor sports store could accept credit cards and access its servers.

But it’s not always like this.

At least once a week, said owner Steve Coon, there is some sort of internet issue.

“It happens way too frequently with DSL, which is the product, of course, that most rural areas have,” he said.

Coon said internet service is not only slow, it’s unreliable.

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Sandy Maki looked out at rows of workstations, all of which have been empty since this spring.

“There’s usually about 35 people in here at a time with supervisors to assist,” she said.

She’s the managing supervisor here, at Global Response in downtown Iron River.

Maki is used to seeing and hearing up to 5,000 incoming calls a day to her call center employees.

“Sometimes you hear people [say], ‘Thank you for calling.’ They end a call, and they’re right on to, ‘Thank you for calling,’ starting a new one. Sometimes it can be back to back,” she said.

Not long from now, Boulder Junction will have the same internet speeds as a large urban area.

The town is kicking off a $3.6 million fiberoptic broadband project, and it hopes as many people as possible sign up for installation eligibility.

The initiative got started with a survey in 2017.

“One of the primary questions was, ‘what is a challenge to economic growth?’ The number one answer, by far, was the lack of broadband. That really was a springboard,” said Bill Niemuth, the vice chair of the Boulder Junction High Speed Broadband Committee.

Grow North Regional Economic Development Corp.

The chair of a Task Force on Broadband Access says getting a handle on who does and doesn't have access to fast internet is something they need to do right away.

Two weeks ago, Governor Evers created the task force to advise his office and the legislature about getting affordable broadband to all. Brittany Beyer  is Executive Director of Grow North Regional Economic Development, serving several northeastern Wisconsin counties.

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A task force on broadband access will be chaired by the head of Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation.

Governor Evers last week created the task force to what should be done getting the fastest internet to the most people. Brittany Beyer of Grow North will chair the Task Force.

Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley says the state has used a system of local grants to spur development. She says the task force will likely continue to use this method, but it hasn't worked across the board...

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Many in the Northwoods do not have access to high speed broadband internet. That’s a critical gap in modern living, especially with the health emergency keeping people at home. State grants through the Public Service Commission have recently been awarded to some communities and counties to help remedy the situation.

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) recently launched a customer service phone line for people who need help locating phone or internet service during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Callers can speak with a PSC Consumer Affairs staff person who will walk through internet and phone service options available in their area and discuss eligibility for discounts on critical communications services.

Pandemic Underscores Wisconsin's Broadband Woes

Apr 3, 2020
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MADISON, Wis. - Like other states, Wisconsin is trying to function during the pandemic with workers and students connecting online in their homes. But there are fears that a lack of broadband access will leave rural residents behind.

According to the tracking firm BroadbandNow, Wisconsin has consistently ranked near the bottom among states in providing high-speed internet to all areas. And the Federal Communications Commission says 28% of rural Wisconsin has no broadband access.

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Five projects in the region have obtained funding from the next round of Public Service Commission of Wisconsin broadband grant funding.

The largest grant was $1.6 million to the Town of Boulder Junction fiber project. The project will build fiber line to 85 business and 660 residences.

In Forest county, nearly $1 million was granted to build 17 wireless transmission tower sites in Forest county.The project will also build 11 miles of wire to roads near Lake Metonga. It will serve 100 businesses and nearly 1,700 residences.

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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.

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A spokesperson says the goal is to get high speed internet access to every person who wants it in the Town of Boulder Junction.

The town, along with CenturyLink, have filed a broadband expansion grant application with the state to fund expansion during 2020. Dennis Aukstik is chair of the town Economic Development/Connect Communities Committee.

The state has $24 million in grant money. Boulder Junction filed a two-year application..

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The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has certified the Town of Boulder Junction as a Telecommuter Forward community.

Wisconsin is the first state to encourage telecommuting in this manner. The goal is to have more people work from home, but it requires higher-speed internet access.

Boulder Junction Economic Development committee chair Dennis Aukstik says this program encourages towns to upgrade broadband so more people can work from home...

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The Boulder Junction Economic Development/Connect Communities Committee is holding two meetings soon to look at options for high-speed internet.

The committee's volunteer chair Dennis Aukstik says a 2017 survey found a long list of potential challenges. He says the number one challenge reported was broadband internet access...

"...We took those answers to heart and have now begun a process to try to identify what our broadband strengths and weaknesses are. What our challenges are in expanding our broadband. We are seeking public input on those questions..."

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A 100-thousand dollar grant from the state will help expand broadband internet access to more parts of Oneida County.

The Oneida County Economic Development Corporation was notified by the Public Service Commission they will receive $100,000 of $218 thousand dollars requested to flesh out more fast internet to underserved areas. Development Corporation Executive Director Roger Luce says there was lots of competition for the money... 

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