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Evers opens application period for broadband expansion grants

By Patrick Lynn

Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday announced the first round of broadband grants available in the state’s 2019-21 budget.

Evers said Wisconsin lags behind the national average when it comes to access to broadband internet, and said the $24 million in grant money is the largest round in state history.

“This investment demonstrates our strong commitment to connecting the underserved areas of our state,” Evers said.

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq said high-speed internet is becoming “increasingly crucial for our family farms to stay competitive in a global market.”

“These grants work to make sure that some of the most difficult places to connect—our rural communities and farms—will have what they need to contribute in our economy,” she said. “Access to broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.”

The 2019-21 biennial budget includes $48 million for broadband expansion grants—more than twice what has been awarded in all previous years combined. Additional grant rounds for the remaining funds will be announced next year, Evers said.

The broadband expansion grants aim to help private companies find a path to return on investment in areas of the state that are challenging to serve. Since 2014, 138 grants have been awarded, and have connected or are in the process of connecting over 4,000 businesses and 75,000 homes to high-speed broadband internet service.

Grant application materials are available at https://psc.wi.gov/Pages/Programs/BroadbandGrants.aspx.

Applications are due by 4 p.m. on December 19, 2019.