Gov. Scott Walker pushes for expanded rural broadband
SEYMOUR — Gov. Scott Walker is asking the state Legislature to pass a bill that allocates about $35 million to expand broadband and technology in rural areas.
Walker was in Seymour Thursday, December 1st — where a year ago, he held the first of more than 70 listening sessions in the past year. The governor says a re-occurring theme at the sessions has been access to reliable broadband internet.
The proposed legislation provides an additional $35.5 million for broadband expansion efforts and TEACH grants over the next three fiscal years.
The TEACH program provides money to schools, libraries, and other educational institutions to upgrade technology and train teachers from small and rural school districts.
The funding comes from a surplus in the Universal Service Fund, which was established in 1993 to address telecommunications needs.
Below is a statement from the Governor’s Office:
Governor Scott Walker called on the State Legislature to pass a proposed bill today that appropriates an additional estimated $35.5 million for broadband expansion and technology programs, such as the Broadband Expansion Grant Program and the Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program, over the next three fiscal years. Governor Walker made the announcement at the Muehl Public Library in Seymour where his first listening session was conducted in December 2015.
“Over the past year, we’ve conducted more than 70 listening sessions in communities throughout the state, and one of the topics we hear brought up all the time is access to reliable broadband internet,” Governor Walker said. “The proposed legislation we’re asking the Legislature to act on triples the state’s broadband and technology investments and it will allow Wisconsin communities, especially in rural areas, to compete for jobs, improve education, and provide a higher quality of life.”
The proposed legislation appropriates an additional estimated $35.5 million for broadband expansion efforts and TEACH grants over Fiscal Years 2017, 2018, and 2019. The TEACH program provides money to eligible schools, libraries, and other educational institutions to upgrade technology and train teachers from small and rural school districts on technology. In addition to providing more funds, the bill also knocks down a barrier to broadband development by prohibiting the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation from requiring appraisals or charging any fee prior to granting any permits or easements for the construction of broadband infrastructure in underserved areas.
The funding comes from a surplus in the Universal Service Fund. The broadband expansion funds would be administered through the Public Service Commission, and the TEACH program funds would be administered through the Department of Administration.
“As Wisconsin continues to compete in the global economy, it is crucial for our small businesses, schools, and households to have access to the internet,” Governor Walker added. “This legislation helps expand broadband access for areas in need as we work towards building an infrastructure where every community is able to connect to fast and reliable internet.”
In addition to Governor Walker’s announcement today, State Broadband Director Angie Dickison attended a Broadband Forward! event in Thorp to certify them as “broadband ready.” In March of 2016, Governor Walker signed legislation into law requiring PSC to certify communities as being “broadband ready” through Wisconsin’s Broadband Forward! Community Certification Program, which coordinates and streamlines administrative procedures, thus eliminating obstacles to broadband investment.
Since Governor Walker signed this legislation into law, four communities, including the town of Clam Falls, Iowa County, village of Kronenwetter, and city of Thorp, are now certified as “broadband ready” by the Broadband Forward! Community Certification Program.