Written by Kelly Edwards Wisconsin USDA Public Information Coordinator
Today too few rural citizens are able to take advantage of the opportunities broadband provides. With broadband becoming increasingly critical for economic growth and information accessibility needs, rural counties and cities are beginning to take the initiative to develop local and regional broadband networks on their own.
At an event earlier this month in Reedsburg Wis., one such initiative was ignited. USDA Rural Utilities Administrator Jonathan Adelstein and Wisconsin Rural Development State Director Stan Gruszynski announced the awarding of more than $5.2 million in American Recovery Act funds to the Reedsburg Utilities Commission for broadband infrastructure improvements and service expansion. Congressman Ron Kind also attended the event.
“The City of Reedsburg has stepped up to ensure that residents in the area have broadband service that is second to none and this investment will lay the foundation for economic development in the area for years to come,” said Adelstein.
In addition to the USDA funds, over $2.3 million in private investment was provided. The funding will extend an existing municipal fiber-to-the-premise network to the surrounding rural area to provide affordable advanced broadband service to residents and businesses that are currently confined to traditional dial-up, wireless, and satellite services.
“It’s something we can really be proud of,” Dave Mikonowicz, Reedsburg Utility Commission General Manager, said. “It’s a great thing for the whole area.” Mikonowicz anticipated that an additional 310 businesses and more than 2,400 homes will be able to access the utility’s services, and approximately 42 new jobs will be generated. “Ultimately, this thing has economic development written all over it,” he said.
In addition, Administrator Adelstein announced that Wisconsin’s Marquette-Adams Telephone Cooperative, Inc. received Recovery Act funds to extend fiber optic service from the existing Telephone Cooperative service area to unserved and underserved rural areas bordering the cooperative’s current territory.
“Building a broadband infrastructure is critical to creating jobs and economic opportunity in rural areas and with investments in broadband we are fostering innovation and bringing our rural communities into the digital age,” said State Director Gruszynski.