CRAWFORD COUNTY - Broadband is the buzz word now and expanding rural broadband access is the mantra. Everybody’s talking about it.
President Joe Biden has a large sum of money to improve broadband internet access front and center in the proposed infrastructure bill.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared 2020 the ‘Year of Broadband’ in his State of the State speech earlier this year.
Wisconsin State Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Wisconsin State Senator Brad Pfaff (D-LaCrosse) may not agree on a lot of things, but both strongly favor expanding broadband access.
Next week, broadband access will be a topic of discussion at the Crawford County Board meeting.
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Under new business, the board is scheduled to have a discussion on forming a special broadband committee, according to the meeting’s published agenda.
Crawford County Board Chairperson Tom Cornford believes the time is right to form the committee and pursue getting broadband internet access for those residents of the county that don’t have it.
Cornford is looking to find a county supervisor or two to lead a broadband committee. He believes there are some good candidates on the board and lots of interested and knowledgeable people in the county that would be willing to serve.
“If we can get a leader, I think we’ll be good to go,” Cornford said. “It’s a prime time. There’s money out there now. If we can just get some good people on the committee now’s the time.
Hopefully, at the meeting we’re going to create a committee,” Cornford said. “I’m excited. I think it will fly.”
Of course, there are ongoing installations and proposals in the county. Both Mediacom and Century Link have buried fiber optic cable and connected some new customers in Crawford County.
Vernon Communications’ grant proposal to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for $172,900 was approved in March to bring fiber optic broadband internet service to residences and businesses the Eagle Mountain Subdivision of Ferryville.
However, a Bug Tussel PSC grant proposal to provide fixed wireless internet from two towers to be constructed in the villages of Wauzeka and Steuben was not approved.
The status of that project is now uncertain, according to local officials, who have not heard from Bug Tussel.
Wauzeka-Steuben School District Administrator Dave Alexander has not been in contact with Bug Tussel, but had heard the PSC grant the company was seeking had not been approved.
Alexander’s main concern is to get broadband access to students in the district, who currently don’t have it.
“The name of the vendor doesn’t matter to me,” Alexander said. “I’m interested in any prospects that can provide access.”
Like Alexander, Wauzeka Village President Gary Gundlach has not had contact with Bug Tussel lately.
Gundlach said that he was working with a real estate agent representing Bug Tussel three weeks ago, but was not aware of whether the search for a tower site was successful or not.
The village president emphasized the village board did not have an agreement with Bug Tussel. Although the company had talked to the village board.The Village of Wauzeka sent a letter to Bug Tussel requesting any proposal involving the village be put in writing in a letter and sent to the village, according to Gundlach. No such letter has yet been received.