Everyone throughout the 93rd_Assembly District understands the importance and need to expand broadband internet access in our part of the state, with more than 65 percent of respondents indicating in …
Everyone throughout the 93rd_Assembly District understands the importance and need to expand broadband internet access in our part of the state, with more than 65 percent of respondents indicating in my recent Spring Budget Survey they supported broadband internet expansion._ As former Chair of the bipartisan Study Committee on Expanding Rural Broadband, I understand that internet access affects nearly every aspect of our lives—something we have all come to realize after spending much time visiting virtually with loved ones, working, learning, and meeting with our health care providers over the past year.
Building on my support for the previous state budget that invested an additional $44 million in state funds in broadband, this year, we continued to make significant investments in broadband expansion. Despite the governor vetoing a bill that would have allocated $500 million in federal funds to broadband expansion, the budget-writing committee along with myself and my other colleagues continued to work hard to pass a budget that would continue to substantially invest in broadband. I am proud that we were able to pass a provision in this year’s budget that invested nearly $130 million in broadband expansion efforts, which the governor eventually signed.
These historic investments are already making their way into western Wisconsin and helping people make muchneeded virtual connections. In 2021, the grants expanded access to places like the towns of Brunswick, Drammen, Menomonie, Ellsworth, and Trimbelle. In addition, I am pleased to see the governor chose to use some of his COVID stimulus funds, although not as much as the legislature had asked, to expand current grants. Several projects in the 93rd applied for these grants and I hope they will receive the grant.
On top of creating the infrastructure, the legislature worked to find ways to decrease costs for existing internet service for customers. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has a tool to help individuals access discounted internet. Certain internet service providers are offering discounts based on factors like income, veteran status, Medicaid, and housing assistance. You can access their map at_http://maps.psc.wi.gov/apps/ DiscountPrograms/_or you can call the PSC internet and phone hotline at 608-2673595.
You can also find information about the emergency broadband benefit program to help certain low-income residents cover the costs of their internet bill during COVID at_ www.getemergencybroadband. org/_ or by calling the Public Service Commission’s internet and phone helpline at 608-267-3595.
I am pleased with the progress that we, as a legislature, have been able to make on this issue over the last several years and in the previous budgets._Helping ensure that my constituents of the 93rd_ Assembly district have access to the tools they need to grow, stay healthy, and learn will continue to remain one of my top legislative priorities.