Editors' Note: the following is a guest column from Senator Patty Schachtner submitted to DrydenWire.com
I, like many of you, struggle with the consequences of insufficient broadband access in my home and when I am out in the community. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare what we already know, high-speed broadband is critical to northwestern Wisconsin’s economy, both during this crisis and as we work to recover. It is not acceptable that so many of us are left behind in this economy because of no fault of our own, but simply because of the lack of access to a basic service in the beautiful part of Wisconsin we call home. As the pandemic took hold this spring, many employers, our local schools, and medical providers all shifted to virtual models to help reduce the impacts of the pandemic. This crisis only highlighted how important this access is to our lives. This is why I am proud to be a voice for northwestern Wisconsin on the Governor’s Taskforce on Broadband Access.
During my time in the Senate I have worked to improve internet access in our communities. Back in January I introduced the Fiber to Farms bill that would have created an incentive for internet service providers to extend their fiber optic lines to farms across rural Wisconsin.
Similarly, the taskforce is charged with researching and recommending policies and initiatives that will meet the state’s broadband goals and needs, promote strategic expansion and adoption around the state, especially in rural areas, and develop solutions with key stakeholders and experts. This effort will result in an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature laying out real, practical solutions to finally get this work done to meet the challenges of our 21st century economy.
I hear from people every day about how the lack of access to high speed internet impacts their lives. Modern rural agriculture depends on the internet to operate efficiently and connect with markets here in Wisconsin and all over the world. According to the Federal Communications Commission 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, in rural areas of our state 26.7% of Wisconsin residents lack access to at least one broadband service.
Investing in rural broadband projects could help close the digital divide, create new jobs, improve our education systems, and open up our local communities to an abundance of new opportunities. I am looking forward to working with a diverse group of stakeholders to research and develop recommendations to expand essential broadband access in Wisconsin. As we begin our work, I encourage you to connect with me to share your views by calling my office at (608) 266-7745 or reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Senator Patty Schachtner proudly represents Wisconsin’s tenth senate district with 178,250 constituents. The district covers parts of Burnett, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties.