Governor Evers Pitches $200 million in Broadband Spending

Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to nearly quadruple spending on broadband access in the state would include about $40 million to subsidize service for low-income consumers, the governor said Wednesday.

Broadband, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission, is a minimum internet speed of 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits for uploads — adequate for streaming videos or taking an online class.

About 430,000 rural Wisconsinites lack broadband access, according to a state estimate, representing close to 25% of the rural population.

Scores of sparsely populated communities remain stuck with internet speeds that lag cities by more than a decade, if they have access at all.

For many reasons, bridging the rural digital divide is a daunting task, especially with solutions such as fiber-optic cable that can cost tens of thousands of dollars a mile to install in rugged terrain.

But the $200 million would get Wisconsin “much, much closer” to having ubiquitous coverage, according to Evers.

“There are some places in the state where we may need to use different technology, but if we need to do that, we could use some of the money for it,” the governor said.