‘Everyone has to have it’: Broadband gap leaves rural Wisconsin behind during coronavirus crisis

Wisconsin’s dearth of high-speed internet in rural areas makes virtual schooling, remote health care and working from home even more difficult

The Newcomer household near Monroe is fairly typical for rural Wisconsin. It is surrounded by cornfields. The nearest neighbor is a quarter-mile down the road. And the internet is terrible.

Now the coronavirus shutdown has put serious stress on the family. The teenagers struggle with the drip of internet service to do their homework while school is closed.


Ken Notes: I will say this one more time with the frustration that the idea is falling on deaf ears. The new 5G wireless technology can provide quality home and small business internet service anywhere it is available, but the cell companies will only want to establish it where there is population density. The state can mandate broader rural statewide coverage in exchange for access to these high density communities. The time is NOW if we wait we will have a redundant system in the cities and NOTHING in rural Wisconsin.

When I was in Neenah serving on a school board in the 80`s and 90`s a group I sat on partnered with the communities to work with phone, cable and internet providers. The result was a high speed network (at that time fiber) in every school, community and many businesses years even decades befor it was the norm. Our agreements became a model for other communities across the state. We were told at the time that we could not mandate the coverage we were asking for because of cost. We told the companies that if they did not provide the service we wanted they could not have access to our communities. We won then and we can win again with leadership and commitment. Alas we are currently allowing the providers to dictate the terms.

- - Volume: 8 - WEEK: 13 Date: 3/26/2020 8:40:22 AM -