Broadband Expansion

Update Submitted 5/19/17 by Chris Stark
Community Resource Educator, UW-Extension Vilas County

Goal: To have affordable reliable and high speed broadband for the residents, businesses and students of the Grow North Region

Questions to legislators: How does Assembly Bill 123 affect affordability for residents and how does it help the education of students?

Q: High speed, affordable broadband continues to be a critical concern among rural residents of the Grow North region. AB 123 was introduced and passed in the Assembly. The Senate will be acting on a similar bill. What is your best estimate of when the WI PSC application process will be announced? Why were the School funds added to the bill? Can the funds be used for providing students in rural areas with broadband?

  • Florence County: The Florence County Broadband Committee is working with the three townships in our County that are underserved or unserved on a proposal for the next round of PSC grants. Three tower locations are being consider and a request for proposal went out to three potential providers. It appears there is one provider willing to partner with us on a grant application to bring service to these three areas: Northwoods Connect. $35,000 in matching grant dollars have been secured. Florence County is waiting to see the final project proposal to determine how much grant money they will provide to reach the 50/50 match goal.
  • Langlade County: Langlade County Board of Directors, Langlade County Economic Development Corporation, and area entities have written letters of support for a local private provider which in return they have been able to obtain $312,000 in grant monies from the Public Service Commission that has allowed expansion of service to underserved customers of approximately 100 people to date. A County-Wide Broadband Committee is currently being formed and housed under the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation to look at long range goals.
  • Lincoln County: County’s Administrative and Legislative Committee recently voted to hold off on any County involvement in Broadband until the CAF II process has run its course. Efforts are now underway to form a Broadband Committee under the auspices of LCEDC.
  • Oneida County: OCEDC’s volunteer broadband committee along with our service partner, Northwoods Connect, applied for and received in 2016 a Wisconsin Public Service Commission Broadband Grant in the amount of $180,566. The Committee, chaired by Dave Noel of Sugar Camp, raised $222,236 in cash and in-kind contributions as a match to the PSC funds. To date they have received a total of over $250,000 from the PSC and raised over $320,000 in matching funds at the local level. Later this summer Northwoods Connect will have thirteen operating locations from which residents and businesses will be able to access high-speed fixed wireless broadband at an affordable rate.
  • Vilas County: The VCEDC Broadband Committee has played a key role in helping to fill the voids where broadband service is needed Vilas County. Private providers have been able to obtain $599,767 in grant monies from the Public Service Commission that has allowed expansion of service in formerly unserved or underserved areas of Vilas County. We currently estimate the County to have 65-70% coverage. Our goal remains to have 85 – 90% coverage of Vilas County with affordable and reliable broadband service.

 

As of 2/12/16 the latest broadband information with the Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) program:

  • Frontier in Forest County is slated to receive $3.65 million in FCC support for the six year program. Those funds are targeted for 1,629 locations specifically in Forest County, which will likely include the Town of Hiles.
  • CenturyLink is slated to receive $3.83 million in Forest County for 1,451 locations.

These investments are planned for the second phase of the Federal Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund program.  During the FCC six year Connect America Fund Phase II, commonly referred to as CAFII, Wisconsin companies will receive $95 million per year every year of the six year program. AT&T will get $9 million per year or $54 million total; CenturyLink $55 million per year/$330 million total; and Frontier $31 per year/$186 million total.

Over the six year program, these three companies will receive $570 million in CAF2 support. Combined with private sector capital, the CAF2 funds will build out high speed Internet to approximately 230,000 locations in unserved or underserved rural Wisconsin. To comply with the FCC requirements, these three companies must complete the broadband build-out to 40% of the targeted locations by 2017, 60% by 2018, 80% by 2019 and 100% by 2020.

Here are the details specific to another Grow North county…Vilas County:

  • Frontier in Vilas County will get support for 4,439 locations. The CAFII support for Frontier on an annual basis in Vilas County will be $1,241,105; or almost $7.5 million over the six year program.
  • CenturyLink will get support in Vilas County for 2,776 locations. The CAFII support for CenturyLink on an annual basis in Vilas County will be $1,053,900; or more than $6.3 million over the six year program.
  • CenturyLink will get support in Florence County for 915 locations. The CAFII support for CenturyLink on an annual basis in Florence County will be $411,943 or more than $2.4 million over the six year program.

The attached spreadsheets show all of the detail for each company, by state and by county. Let me know if the attached documents work for you. The tabs across the bottom will allow you to find the breakdown by county for Wisconsin.

Also, this is a link to a map showing areas targeted for CAFII (Connect America Fund Phase 2) funding:

https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/caf-2-accepted-map

Once you are on that page, you can zoom in to see Wisconsin and Vilas County more clearly.

While the map shows a relatively significant area of Wisconsin as being targeted by these funds, the 230,000 locations that are targeted for build-out represents a relatively small percentage of Wisconsin’s homes. The sparsely populated areas shown on the map are expensive to serve, which can explain why they may not have had a 10Mbps wired broadband option already. There might be existing options below 10Mbps from one of the three providers (AT&T, CenturyLink or Frontier), they could have wireless broadband options, or satellite options. Just because it is showing as a targeted area doesn’t mean there is no Internet service available today.