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Local libraries among those to gain faster Internet
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    More than 300 libraries on the BadgerNet Converged Network will be receiving new, state-of-the-art fiber optic connections this year, said a press release from Access Wisconsin on Feb. 4.

“Fiber allows much greater connection speeds,” said Mark Weller, president of Access Wisconsin. “Providing the best technology means Wisconsin’s libraries will have infrastructure that is future-proofed for decades to come.”

The upgrade from copper to fiber optic infrastructure will be paid for by the state’s Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program and by the local telecommunications companies that provide BadgerNet broadband services to the state, said the press release.

“The local telecommunications companies are proud to partner with Governor Scott Walker to provide advanced broadband services to the state’s libraries,” Weller said.

“Libraries on BadgerNet in every corner of the state will get fiber this year,” he added. “The state and the private-sector telecommunications companies are working together to make this technology available in rural and urban libraries from Kenosha to Bayfield.”

The libraries will also receive increased bandwidth. “Faster speeds today are a big benefit to the libraries, but the fiber build-out allows the libraries to easily increase their bandwidth in the future as their needs grow,” said Weller. “The capacity of fiber connections is immense.”

Work on the new fiber for libraries will begin in the spring, after the ground thaws and is expected to be completed this fall, with about 20 libraries per week being connected, according to the press release.

According to a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), planning for the library fiber upgrade has been underway since mid-2013 and is part of enhancing the state’s BadgerNet broadband network.

As a result of the fiber project, libraries will get a 10Mbps BadgerNet connection for $100 per month and up to 100 Mbps for $250 per month, said DPI’s press release.    

“More than 60 percent of our public libraries report inadequate Internet connection speeds to serve library patrons,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Many of our libraries are the only public Internet access in their small, rural communities. Our libraries provide online education resources for students of all ages, including BadgerLink; services for job seekers; and information on government services; so this upgrade of Internet connectivity will be a welcome improvement across the state.”

This will mean a huge improvement for several local libraries that will be receiving upgrades through the project.

The Johnson Public Library in Darlington already has the 10 mgb of bandwidth, but is currently paying $250 per month for the service. Now, with this project the library will only pay $100 instead. The fiber has also already been installed at Darlington’s library, but is currently “dark” or not connected, so now it will soon become connected.

Candi Fitzsimons, director of the Johnson Public Library, said they are currently looking for reps from CenturyLink to do a site visit and decide how and when the change will happen and that it is tentatively slated for April.

Fitzsimons cites former library director, Nita Burke, as one of those partly responsible for this upgrade as Burke is on the Council on Library and Network Development (COLAND) board, which is a state advisory group to the DPI on library and network services. 

Burke, who has also been an advocate for more affordable broadband in rural areas, credits David Cagigal, chief information officer of the Department of Administration for the state of Wisconsin for leading the charge to this project.

For Shullsburg’s McCoy Public Library, director Carol Stoudt, said the upgrade will enable the library to offer much higher speeds of internet access at a reduced cost to the library.

“We are very excited to see this long anticipated upgrade coming to McCoy Public Library,” said Stoudt. 
Stoudt said that site visits, beginning in April, will be scheduled several weeks before the actual fiber install and that if the building passes this inspection the fiber optic connections will then be installed.

“At this time McCoy Public Library is asking for 20 Mbps of bandwidth, a four-fold increase and is hoping the budget will allow this increase for the benefit of our patrons,” added Stoudt.

At Argyle Public Library the upgrade will increase the bandwidth from the library’s current 3 Mbps to 10 Mbps as well as improve the speed that information flows.

“This improvement will position the library for the future and the addition of more computers,” said Carol McDaniel, director of the Argyle Library. “The information available via the web and the patrons’ desire to access it has prompted the need for greater and speedier internet connections,” said McDaniel. “The internet is used continually at the library during open hours,” she added.

The Argyle Library recently installed a new router due to the age of the former equipment, which will accommodate the increased speed that will be available through the upgrade.

The library currently pays a rate of $100 per month (which is funded through the DPI’s TEACH program), so the cost to the library will remain the same.