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WEDC to support broadband testing in rural Wisconsin

July 27, 2023
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Workers installing cable to bring broadband access to rural communities.

A grant-funded effort will use data collection software to assess needs and improvement costs with the ultimate goal of increasing broadband access in rural communities.

WEDC Capacity Building Grant aims to bridge gaps in broadband access

MADISON, WI. JULY 27, 2023 – The North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (NCWRPC) is receiving nearly $81,000 in a Capacity Building Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to collect and analyze data on broadband access in the state.

The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access last year found that a lack of data on broadband access is a major barrier to fair and equitable internet access for communities across Wisconsin. Through this grant, the NCWRPC will be partnering with Breaking Point Solutions, a broadband analysis company, to track broadband access, speed, quality and cost in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties.

“If we’re going to meet the broadband needs of our residents, businesses, and communities in every corner of Wisconsin, our state has to have solid data on existing coverage,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s leading economic development organization. “Increasing broadband access in our state will play a major role in attracting business, entrepreneurs, and future residents to our rural communities.”

The NCWRPC will collaborate with Wisconsin’s Regional Planning Commissions, Regional Economic Development Organizations, and other local economic development partners to bring this project to life. Reliable and accurate data surrounding broadband access will give communities the ability to determine which areas have the highest need for broadband infrastructure.

Additionally, the state can use this data to better award the $1.05 billion federal grant funding coming to Wisconsin through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law ‘Internet for All’ initiative.

“Governor Evers’ administration is committed to improving access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet in Wisconsin. Complete and accurate data is a critical element in our work that has already helped us reach more homes and businesses,” said Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq. “Collecting this additional data will help us target funds to the areas of our state that need it most and get everyone connected.”

“Access to quality broadband is critical to our region and all of Wisconsin,” said Dennis Lawrence, executive director of the NCWRPC. “This grant will help collect the data necessary to effectively plan for the future of broadband in our state.”

Using Breaking Point Solutions’ OptiMap data collection software, NCWRPC will be able to collect data on broadband access needs down to a community level, detecting differences between neighborhoods and even individual properties. The software will be able to record when a speed test is taken, the broadband speed and the service provider. Using this data, the software will be able to calculate an estimated budgetary cost for infrastructure improvements, saving time and money for small communities.

Businesses and residents are encouraged to take the speed test which can be accessed on the NWRPC website.

In addition to WEDC, this project is funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The NTIA, located within the Department of Commerce, is primarily focused on programs and policy that expand broadband access and adoption in the United States.

WEDC’s Capacity Building Grant program supports local and regional economic growth and development efforts in the state of Wisconsin. The matching grants are awarded to local and regional economic development organizations tackling important problems and issues for their communities.

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