Sunday, August 23, 2015

More "TeaBaggery leading to long-term failure"- rural broadband edition

Here's a nice article from the Journal-Sentinel's Rick Barrett regarding Wisconsin's attempts to help its rural areas join the 21st Century when it comes to broadband availability. The state has started to set aside a few million dollars to help businesses set up the cables and related infrastructure for upgraded Internet, and with my aunt and uncle having a lake home near Sayner, this part of the article was something I could relate to firsthand.
Three of the seven grants in 2014 were for Vilas County, including the Eagle River area that's a popular tourism destination.

"Extending broadband is one of the most important things not only to Vilas County but also the surrounding counties. It's sorely lacking in places," said Carl Ruedebusch, chairman of the Vilas County Economic Development Corp....

The population in Vilas County increases to about 200,000 people in the summer from 20,000 residents other times of the year, according to Ruedebusch.

If the area had better Internet access, he said, some of the summer residents would stay longer, or they might move to the area and establish businesses.

"The economic impact on our area would be huge," Ruedebusch said.
State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout also mentioned the need for more rural broadband in her weekly column, and discusses how the issue came up as she appeared at county fairs in Western Wisconsin this summer. Sen. Vinehout talks about a constituent named Tammy who mentioned that she could not receive broadband at her rural home in Pierce County, which would help in her efforts to operate her nonprofit organization out of her house. Vinehout says that the lack of higher-speed internet service is a common complaint in rural Wisconsin.
I spoke with two county board members who were working the booth next to me. One of them said, “It’s like electricity territories. The FCC set up where telephone companies originally put their lines and that company totally controls that territory.” These territories don’t follow any natural or political subdivision borders – different companies could serve people in the same township. I learned that seven different companies serve Pierce County. Tammy described this piecemeal system as creating “little pockets of nowhere.”

Why do phone companies that control a certain territory not provide Internet service to their customers? The county board members told me, "AT&T has no interest in expanding."

Problems are so great that a year ago University of Wisconsin - River Falls teamed with local economic development folks to do a survey of Internet service. The survey results showed half of the respondents were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with their current Internet provider. Half of businesses surveyed did not have broadband service. The vast majority of these businesses were interested in obtaining fiber optic access. The UWRF team estimated about 13% of households and 16% of businesses responded to the survey.

I learned the town of Troy used stimulus money to lay fiber optic cable to every house in the Township. A recent FCC ruling may allow municipalities to cross the “walls” demarking territory and build out into neighboring territory.
Now let's flash back to Rick Barrett's article from today. It triggered a memory from 2011 for me, and it should have also triggered something from Rick Barrett, because he wrote this article in February 2011.
State officials are returning $23 million to the federal government, saying there were too many strings attached to stimulus money that was supposed to be for expanding high-speed Internet service in schools, libraries and government agencies.

The money was to have boosted broadband connections in 380 Wisconsin communities, including 385 libraries and 82 schools. It also could have been used to improve police, fire department and hospital communications in rural areas....

Wisconsin received the grant a year ago from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included about $7 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees to extend broadband to underserved rural areas and was compatible with President Barack Obama's goal of making high-speed Internet available to 98% of Americans by 2016.

The money would have been used for the BadgerNet Converged Network, which brings the Internet to schools, libraries, and state and local government agencies. It would have paid for 200 miles of fiber-optic cable, improving the Internet connections at hundreds of public facilities.
(Author raises hand) Call me crazy, but perhaps some of these areas would already have broadband if Walker HADN'T TEABAGGED ITS EXPANSION 4 YEARS AGO. Once you have service established, it's a whole lot easier to expand it from there. Yet again, this administration was too concerned with scoring points on talk radio and trying to submarine the Obama Administration before the 2012 elections instead of promoting infrastructure that would help rural areas of the state compete and have a better chance of attracting and retaining talent.

Once again, the shortsightedness of this reckless administration rears its head, to the detriment of the state's economic performance and competitiveness. And it's something that must be repeated again and again by us, because apparently our media will refuse to give the proper context and history surrounding an issue to give the complete picture of why we have gaps in broadband coverage in this state. And also to reveal and remind voters of who made the decisions that put us in this hole that we stand in today.


  1. Just to put blame where blame is due - the screwing over of rural WI has been bipartisan; mainly republican, but some so-called democrats have been key as well. See for a good summary. Much of the legislation crippling broadband expansion in WI was signed by Jim Doyle. Joe Winecke, when he was DPW chair, took a side job lobbying for AT&T to kill WI broadband. (To her credit Vinehout, a freshman senator at the time, vigorously opposed that bill, but it was still passed & signed by Doyle.)

    1. True on that, and it doesn't do the DPW any good to work both sides of the fence and kiss up to corporations that don't have the public good in.mind.

      But the GOPS definitely deserve more blame for turning down the free money offered the Feds, only to spend more state dollars to get half the service. And it's unacceptable that the JS refused to mention that fact in their story yesterday

  2. SKW's in a hole (ref: that perfect picture, above) and many --- including his erstwhile friends who are billionaires -- now have no confidence in SKW any more. He should drop out. IMHO, why not this>>>>>Jake for governor<<<<< (and the sooner the better, since time and freedom and economic shifts and climate change wait for no one.) In the meantime, we will continue the fight to get broadband going strong throughout beautiful Wisconsin and not allow the oil barons' dirty, dirty pipelines in our home state.

    We'd rather re-tool our economy with wind and solar as suggested here:

  3. CSPAN's WASHINGTON JOURNAL had a reporter one talking about the rural broadband initiative. I only half listened to the report while at work but most of the effort was a bust.