Rural high-speed internet the focus of new survey, to be included in budget

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - Gov. Scott Walker announced Wednesday he will give his 2013-2015 biennial budget address on Feb. 20.

The budget could have a big effect on rural communities.

Experts said as the need for high speed internet continues to grow, providing access for rural areas is becoming more and more important.

"If someone doesn't have high speed internet, they now need to drive into town and jump off someone's unsecured Wi-Fi spot, or go to the library," Michael Harris, Internet Coordinator with Chippewa Valley Satellite in Cornell said.

"Broadband connectivity really isn't a want anymore, it's more of a need for us to do business, to learn, and so we have to make sure we're meeting those demands and needs of both consumers and businesses. And how we get there is really a matter of public and private entities working together collaborating to serve our consumers," regional broadband specialist Jill Hietpas said.

"It should be a plan where people would sign up and say yes, i'm going to purchase this," Harris said.

"We need to ensure access to cost-effective and reliable sources of power, preserve our clean water advantage, improve availability of high-speed internet connections and support our quality health care in Wisconsin," Walker said in last week's State of the State Address.

As the state waits for more specifics from the governor's budget next month, Hietpas said a federally funded survey will help identify what areas need fiber cabling for high speed internet.

"We have to think about what's the future, what innovative opportunities are going to exist that require more bandwidth?" she said.

Harris said some areas don't have broadband because the potential profits won't cover the expenses.

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