The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has awarded $28.4 million in state funds to help bring high-speed internet service to underserved communities.
The grants, which will support projects in 39 counties, were the second round to be funded by $48 million included in the 2019 state budget. The PSC voted to award an additional $4.4 million left over from previous years.
According to the grant requests, the 58 projects will extend high-speed Internet to as many as 6,159 businesses and 106,000 homes, most of which do not currently have service available.
The PSC selected the projects from 124 applications requesting a total of more than $62.6 million.
The largest single grant, $2.2 million, went to CenturyLink for a project in the Vilas County town of Boulder Junction.
The commission has awarded $73.6 million in broadband grants over the past eight years. Almost three quarters of that was given out during the current two-year budget cycle.
That includes $5.4 million of the state’s roughly $2 billion in federal pandemic relief funds that were given late last year to a dozen projects that brought service to more than 20,000 homes and businesses.
Gov. Tony Evers has proposed allocating another $200 million for broadband support in the next two-year budget, though the chair of his broadband task force says providing universal access could cost billions of dollars.
According to a 2019 FCC report, about half a million Wisconsin residents lack access to 25/3 Mbps internet speeds — a level of service that can’t always stand up to the demands of remote work and school. And the FCC data overstate the availability of service.
Broadband experts say the market has served most of the densely populated areas where there’s a good return on investment. But in rural areas — especially the rugged Driftless area and remote North Woods — there just aren’t enough customers to cover the cost of installing cable or building wireless towers.
The list of grants include:
Indianhead Telephone Company doing business as Bevcomm, Potato Lake fiber project — $461,929. This project will build a Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) service past seven businesses and 146 residences in the towns of Rusk, Big Bend and Stubbs, in Rusk County. This project area is west of the FY 2018-2 Indianhead Island Lake grant project.
Ntera, LLC, Sheldon fiber project — $194,469. This project will build a Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) service past seven businesses and 71 residential locations along Highway 64 near the Village of Sheldon and in the town of Marshall in Rusk County, and in the towns of Lake Holcombe and Estella in Chippewa County.
Ntera, LLC, Gilman fiber project — $320,966. This project will build a Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) service past 14 businesses and 200 residential locations along Highway 64 in the town of Aurora in Taylor County. This route is an extension off of a fiber route funded by a USDA ReConnect Grant.
CTC Telcom doing business as Mosaic Technologies, town of Cedar Lake fiber project — $1,263,791. This project will build a Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) service past 78 businesses and 1,133 residential locations in the towns of Cedar Lake in Barron County, in the town of and village of Birchwood in Washburn County, and in the town of Edgewater in Sawyer County.
Chibardun Telephone Cooperative, Inc. doing business as Mosaic Technologies, towns of Sand Creek and Otter Creek fiber project — $960,218. This project will build a Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) service past 23 businesses and 615 residential locations in the Towns of Sand Creek, Otter Creek, and Grant in Dunn County, and the Town of Sioux Creek in Barron County.
Ntera, LLC, Chippewa County fiber project — $242,138. This project will build a Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) service past 10 businesses and 90 residential locations along three routes: the Dutch Creek addition in the Towns of Anson and Goetz, the Pike Lake addition in the towns of Arthur and Colburn, and the 260th Avenue in the town of Birch Creek. These routes are extensions from the FY 2019 Ntera Birch Creek project, the FY 2020 Ntera Andersen and Estella project, and fiber routes funded from other sources.
Price County Telephone Company, Soo Lake fiber project — $1,590,410. This project will build a Fiber-To-ThePremises (FTTP) service past 70 businesses and 1,446 residential locations in the Phillips and Soo Lake telephone rate centers, in Price and Sawyer counties.