Closing Broadband Gaps Comes Down to Funding in Dunn County, Wis.

A county official says providing Internet access to rural areas is not a matter of ability so much as finding the cash to make it happen.

by Ben Rueter, Leader-Telegram / January 18, 2018

(TNS) — MENOMONIE, Wis. — The Dunn County Board discussed a draft on the rural broadband gap survey results, which outlines the county’s lack of broadband access for business and residential areas, Wednesday night.

The report is meant to provide information about areas with little or no broadband access in the county in an effort to improve access as well as the county’s broadband infrastructure. According to the Federal Communications Commission, broadband is defined by having a minimum of 25 megabytes-per-second download speed and 3 megabytes-per-second upload speed.

Bob Colson, planning and land use control administrator, didn’t shy away from the fact that expanding broadband access will take money.

“It’s going to come down to dollars,” he said.

He explained he doesn’t expect the county to buy the broadband infrastructure, but County Board Chairman Steven Rasmussen told the board that county policy should align with what internet service providers would like to do.

Stephanie Hintz, Dunn County youth and family extension educator said that the analysis team’s maps and data will be brought to internet service providers in order to build relationships in the near future.

Eric Turner, Dunn County Economic Development Corp. executive director, said that this report puts the county in a good place to line up grants and make connections.

“We’ve already taken a big step,” he said.

James Anderson, county supervisor, said that he wants to see broadband access as a priority. He told the board that rural tourism and house values are tied to broadband access.

In the gap analysis report, it states that fewer than 50 percent of residential respondents are satisfied with their internet. The areas where this is true is in towns with limited access. The report cites examples such as Lucas, Hay River and Sherman, where each town has a greater than 75 percent dissatisfaction with their internet. Furthermore, in those towns, 44 percent of the respondents are without internet access.

Of the businesses surveyed, 72 percent said internet service is available, but more than half, 55 percent, were dissatisfied with their internet service. According to the survey, 1 in 5 business respondents has considered moving the business out of Dunn County.

Rasmussen said that the county will be revisiting this topic.

©2018 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.