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Wisconsin County Takes Step to Streamline Broadband Permitting

The LaCrosse County Board of Supervisors took the first step toward becoming a “Broadband Forward! Community,” which is meant to indicate reduced administrative barriers to Internet service providers.

(TNS) — La Crosse County last week took the first of two actions to become a certified broadband community. The County Board of Supervisors voted to read the ordinance to create a local "Broadband Forward! Community" into the formal county record.

Broadband Forward! is a state effort led by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to encourage the development of broadband access in communities across the state. Created in 2015 by Wisconsin Act 278, it is a voluntary program for local governments to signal to Internet providers that the municipality has reduced administrative obstacles to broadband infrastructure.

The ordinance states that La Crosse County will:
  • Streamline its administrative procedures.
  • Appoint a single point of contact for all matters relating to broadband network projects. Accept electronic submission of applications.
  • Review and process applications within the specified time frame.
  • Charge only reasonable fees for reviewing applications and issuing permits.

The county has designated the zoning department as the point of contact for broadband projects, and all applications will be processed in 10 business days or less.

Now that the ordinance has been read into the record — as required by state statute — the public can make comments, questions and or address concerns about the ordinance to the board. The ordinance will be read again and voted on at the next county board meeting in January. There will also be time for public comment on the matter at that meeting.

Some obstacles to broadband investment include length of permit application processing times or nepotism for particular companies. With the Broadband Forward! certification, the state is trying to eliminate these administrative roadblocks so Internet service providers have a more streamlined process to provide services.

Charlotte Peters, a community development educator for La Crosse County as a part of UW-Madison Extension, said that these roadblocks don't really exist in La Crosse County. The zoning department, which handles permit requests, already turns around applications in 10 days or less.

"It's important to understand that this is a really basic first step to helping get the board looking at broadband," Peters said.

"Then what comes from this is more interest and more education to the board on what programs are out there, what the requirements are, what state goals are, what the federal goals are for having access into the community," Peters continued, "so that (the board) can make good decisions going forward on how the county approaches broadband."

As of now, becoming a Broadband Forward! Community is a sign to Internet service providers that the county wants to and is ready to accept broadband infrastructure proposals and permits.

In the future, being broadband certified could possibly become a requirement for broadband infrastructure grants or programs as those become more competitive across the state and country.

©2022 the La Crosse Tribune, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.