Thursday, December 10, 2015

Walker gets no points for investing in broadband

Given that his presidential aspirations flamed out and that his approval rating has dropped to 38%, Gov Walker is trying to keep a less divisive profile these days, and giving happy-talk at appearances around the state. One of the ways he is doing so is by showing up at “business development” photo ops, which try to sucker the rubes give the impression the Wisconsin economy is going well.

An example of this was Walker showing up Tuesday in Chippewa Falls to tout the increase in broadband technology in the area.
Governor Scott Walker recently joined the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) in announcing $1.5 million in Broadband Expansion Grants. Today, Governor Walker visited the Marshfield Clinic Lake Hallie Center in Chippewa Falls to award a $286,165 grant to Chippewa County and the Wisconsin Independent Network (WIN). Chippewa County and WIN are providing matching funds for the grant.

“Access to high-speed internet is a critical part of our infrastructure,” Governor Walker said. “Just as we invest in building roads and putting up power lines, we’re investing in these Broadband Expansion Grants to ensure Wisconsin’s communities with limited access to internet are getting the infrastructure needed to support broadband connections. We’ve heard from business and community leaders all throughout northern Wisconsin that they need high-speed internet in order to grow jobs and new businesses. With these grants and the matching funds, we’re working to help make that a reality.”

The Broadband Grant Program was created by Governor Walker in the 2011-13 biennial budget. This year, Governor Walker increased funding for broadband expansion grants in the 2015-17 biennial budget from $500,000 to $1.5 million annually. The grants provide reimbursement for equipment and construction expenses incurred to extend or improve broadband telecommunications services in underserved regions of Wisconsin. An additional $6 million is allocated from the Universal Service Fund (USF) cash reserves to fund the grants for the next four years. In shifting from continuing appropriation of funding to biennial appropriation, the grants are allowed greater flexibility and enable grant recipients to prioritize investments and meet higher capacity demands in the future. The $1.5 million in grants, combined with funds matched by businesses, non-profits, and local governments, will equal a total investment of approximately $5.5 million to expand broadband service in Wisconsin.
Sounds great, and if you’ve listened to people from rural Wisconsin like State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, these types of investments are badly needed, and will get the rest of the state more up-to-speed with the larger cities and the rest of the country when it comes to communications.

BUT, let’s not forget that a big reason that rural Wisconsin was lacking in broadband capability was due to earlier actions by Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP regime. As the Capital Times pointed out in an excellent editorial titled “No State Has Been So Ill-Served by its Governor As Wisconsin,” the Obama Administration offered Wisconsin much more in broadband investment 4 years ago, without state taxpayers having to shell out the difference, and the Walker boys turned them down.
In 2011, barely a month into his governorship, Walker’s administration returned $23 million in federal stimulus money that was supposed to be used to improve broadband connections for 380 Wisconsin communities — including 385 libraries and 82 schools. The money could also have been used "to improve police, fire department and hospital communications in rural areas,” according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports at the time.

Why did the Walker administration turn the money down? It did not want to make the commitment to meet the grant’s requirements that Wisconsin get serious about expanding high-speed Internet service….

Mark Pocan, a tech-savvy legislator who then represented Madison in the state Assembly, suggested that Walker [also] wanted to take care of his campaign donors. "Not only is he turning away construction jobs that would have come with the federal grant to expand broadband fiber to schools and libraries across Wisconsin, but he's closing off potential to business growth that comes with bridging the digital divide," said Pocan, who now represents Wisconsin in the U.S. House. "What's worse, the root of his decision wasn't what was in the best interest of Wisconsin, rather the best interest of his big telecommunications campaign donors."

Following up on Pocan’s point, the Journal Sentinel pointed out: “Employees of AT&T Inc. and its political action committee donated more than $20,000 to Walker's (2010) campaign, nearly three times more than the $7,600 they donated to his opponent, Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, according to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.”

No matter what Walker’s intentions, his administration’s decision to reject the money for building out broadband in Wisconsin was strikingly wrongheaded. And it harmed the state.
And so here we are in 2015, having to spend more state taxpayer dollars to start up broadband in these underserved areas instead of having these systems already in place and operating, which would make these areas of the state us more competitive with the rest of the country in attracting and retaining talent.

But noooooo. These guys had to suck up tom their donors and strike the Teabagger pose to gain….a few dollars in campaign donations along with Brownie points with racists and other mediocre mouth-breathers who wanted to stick it to Obama and the Dems? ENOUGH OF THIS CRAP. It is well past time that we demand that the people in power in this state actually deliver results and improve our economy and quality of life over partisan, political pose jobs that make us fall further behind.

And no, we will not forget the stupid, arrogant decisions by the Fitzwalkerstanis that put us behind the curve and forced us to shell out extra money just to try to catch up. And no matter how many photo ops Scotty tries to pull at some Wisconsin business, this failure is entirely on him and his “play politics and pay me over everything else” mentality.


  1. So I take it you're not impressed by that wonderful bipartisan bill now making the rounds to make booyah the official Wisconsin State Soup? Speaking of politicians talking their eyes off the ball...

    1. I think it's an outrage! How could it not be beer cheese???

  2. Replies
    1. About the state soup? I don't, I'm being thoroughly sarcastic. Apparently you're not bright enough to catch the joke.

      But as for state taxpayers having to pay millions more to expand broadband, instead of having it up and running with the Feds picking up the entire tab? That's an outrageous dereliction of duty, but typical of this short-term mentality of Walker and the average WisGOP.

      Time often seems to prove this crew wrong.

  3. This goes back to 2003 and 2007 (I think it was 2007 Act 42) where we gave the treasury away to the telecoms/cable industry.

    The result? Go to the National Broadband Map - Rank counties by 25Mbps or faster access, and compare MN, WI, and IA. There's a story there.

  4. Do you know if someone has been keeping tabs on Governor Walker's “business development” photo ops? Or any pro-whatever education/ business/ issue photo-ops that he can get?
    Do you know any listing, or perhaps a way to search for all these sort of campaigning stunts of falseness?

    1. I don't have a database of these things, but some organization like One Wisconsin Now might. I know the Walker folks are trying to cover up visitors to the Guv's Mansion, but I assume public events are open record.

      Wispolitics has a good "events" tab that can go back quite a while to track things as well