WI broadband expansion work vows to provide high-speed access statewide
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) promises to benefit Wisconsin on several fronts, including broadband expansion.
US Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, said from browsing the web to working or learning from home and even virtual doctors’ appointments, having reliable, high-speed internet has grown to be an essential part of everyday life.
It’s also one that more than 300,000 Wisconsinites currently do not have access to or can’t afford. “So many folks in Wisconsin live in rural communities, there is no broadband. If you live in a city, maybe you live in Milwaukee, there is broadband but it’s not affordable. We’ve got to fix all of that,” said Secretary Raimondo.
White House officials stated in a fact sheet that “5.5% of Wisconsin residents live in areas where, under the FCC’s benchmark, there is no broadband.”
Of the $65 billion allocated to Wisconsin under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, the White House said at least $100 million will go towards installing more broadband infrastructure and helping residents pay for access to it. “Almost a quarter of folks in Wisconsin will be eligible for money to help them pay for broadband,” Secretary Raimondo said, referencing the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which aims to help low-income families pay for the internet bills.
White House officials said 1,246,000 or 22% of people in Wisconsin will be eligible for that benefit.
Another piece to helping residents is ensuring broadband companies are being transparent with pricing. “A requirement of any company that’s participating in the program is that they have price transparency. That they allow the consumers to comparison shop,” explained Secretary Raimondo.
Secretary Raimondo said high-speed broadband means a better economy, with more opportunities to work from home and promote small businesses. One demographic that she believes will particularly benefit are mothers who are caring for children while working from home.
“I’ve talked to so many women during the pandemic who couldn’t hold down a traditional office job, but they started selling things online. They started a small business to sell online. They started services to businesses online. But they need broadband to do that,” said Secretary Raimondo.
Secretary Raimondo said work of laying the fiber itself is also expected to create thousands of new jobs in Wisconsin over the next several years, which she said are often well-paying, union jobs.
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