A rural broadband internet transmission tower. (Sandra Mu | Getty Images)
Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced the U.S. Department of Treasury approved the use of $140 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to increase internet access and affordability across the state.
The money, announced Thursday, will be used to fund two new grant programs. Expanding internet access has been a key initiative of Evers’ administration, with many rural parts of the state lacking access to high speed internet. Since 2019, state programs have brought or expanded internet to 395,000 homes and businesses.
“Meaningfully investing in expanding high-speed internet access must be one of our top priorities to ensure our industries, families, and communities continue to grow and prosper,” Evers said in a statement. “With these new programs, we will have more opportunities to invest in the services that ensure both Wisconsinites and our state are prepared to meet the needs of the 21st century.”
One program, the flexible facilities program, will allow local and tribal governments to pay for construction or renovations to increase digital connectivity in buildings such as local libraries and community centers. The state Department of Administration will award up to $107 million under the program to allow residents of communities with “critical need” to connect to the internet for work, education and health care.
The other new program, the digital connectivity and navigators program, will use $33 million disbursed through the state Public Service Commission to install Wi-Fi in “targeted” apartment buildings and provide digital navigation services to residents.
“High-speed internet is a necessity for Wisconsinites across the state to run their businesses, attend school, manage their farms, and connect with friends and family,” Baldwin said. “I am proud to bring home this investment to connect families and businesses with reliable broadband — ensuring more Wisconsinites can fully participate in the economy, kids get the education they deserve, and families can connect with loved ones across the world.”
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