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ISP Announces Plans to Expand Service in Wisconsin Counties

Internet service provider Spectrum announced broadband expansion across Wisconsin’s Chippewa, Eau Claire and Dunn counties. The company will be providing broadband to 1,140 homes across the three area counties.

(TNS) — When Rob Summerfield first ran for the state Legislature in 2016 and began door-knocking in rural Chippewa and Dunn counties, he heard from several people who said it would be "nice" to have improved broadband and Internet connections.

By 2018, "nice" had been replaced by words such as "imperative." People saw that they were losing out by not having strong home Internet service. That only compounded during the pandemic, when suddenly children were remote learning, and adults were working from home.

"You really saw it amplified," Summerfield said Monday. "There are a lot of un-served areas, and people said, 'this is a necessity.'"

State Rep. Summerfield, R- Bloomer, is chairman of the Assembly's Science, Technology and Broadband Committee. He attended a groundbreaking ceremony Monday in rurral Fall Creek, where Spectrum officials discussed their broadband expansion across Chippewa, Eau Claire and Dunn counties.

Becca Coleman, who lives in the town of Seymour, said she has lived in her home for eight years and still can't get an Internet connection there.

"I've got three kids in school," Coleman said. During the pandemic, the district sent "hot spot" connections home for the children to use. They have tried a satellite service for Internet, but it was spotty at best. Now, a fiber tubing has been laid near her home in the past two weeks, and she's excited to get connected.

"It was a big property value problem" Coleman said. "It was a topic people didn't think to ask — 'Does Internet come out here?'"

Spectrum is investing $5 billion nationwide, including $1 billion from the Federal Communications Commission, to provide rural broadband across their coverage area. Adam Raschka, Spectrum's regional senior director of state government affairs, said the company will be providing broadband to 1,140 homes across the three area counties.

"These are all homes that, by definition, do not have broadband," Raschka said.

Raschka agreed that the pandemic showed the importance of having a strong Internet connection.

"A lot of us are working from home, and understand the importance of broadband," he said. "Charter was preparing to do this expansion in 2019, before the pandemic."

Matt Brown, Spectrum's vice president of construction, said the company has plans to provide broadband to 140,000 homes in the state, but there are challenges, from winter weather to the numerous roads, waterways, agriculture areas and forests.

"The scale of this is unlike anything that has ever done before," Brown said.

State Rep. Jesse James, R- Altoona, described how some students were having to go to libraries or hunt for locations for an Internet connection.

"This is one of the main topics we hear about, everywhere we go," James said. "This is a huge victory for us; it's an exciting day for us."

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