Wood County Rural Broadband Gets Boost from Grant
There is general agreement that access to high-speed internet, also known as broadband, is lacking in many rural areas. That picture is about to change in rural Wood County.
Thanks to two grants from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC), Bug Tussel Wireless (BTW) will build 14 new towers and upgrade four existing towers to provide high speed wireless internet service to essentially all of rural Wood County and a portion of Jackson County located in the Pittsville School District.
While it may not be well-known in Central Wisconsin, Bug Tussel Wireless has provided last mile internet service via fixed wireless technology in rural and underserved areas of Wisconsin since 2003. Headquartered in Green Bay, BTW currently operates 179 broadband towers and 254 cellular towers in 44 counties in Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan.
“The pandemic intensified the need for adequate broadband service for businesses and education, as employees and students all tried to work from home,” said Scott Larson, President of the Marshfield Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MACCI).
As society gets back to a new normal, availability of broadband in rural areas remains a critical need. Larson continued, “Access to broadband will improve public safety, increase quality of education K-16, allow the use of telehealth services and improve quality of life, thus making Wood County a more attractive place to live.”
Getting this grant is a game changer for the Pittsville School District. It covers 357 square miles in southwest Wood County, as well as areas in Clark, Jackson and Juneau counties. The majority of the district is sparsely populated, with poor internet access and no broadband.
“Pittsville School District is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Bug Tussel Wireless and Wood County,” stated Rodney Figuoroa, District Superintendent. “Our partnerships and growth in our own curriculum will benefit greatly with access to high-speed internet for our families. It will also enhance our ability to offer courses much larger districts offer with the personal experience of a small school.”
Having fast and reliable internet service is directly related to the success of the modern agricultural economy.
Heidi Slinkman is a fourth-generation cranberry grower who wrote a letter of support for the grant application, and was happy to hear it was funded.
“These grant funds to establish broadband access in rural Wood County will positively impact the farmers in my neighborhood who depend on the internet to run their businesses,” she said. “From web-based accounting software, to online applications for weather monitoring, to irrigation systems that operate from remote devices, having dependable reliable and strong internet secures our ability to farm more intelligently and with more precision.”
As Town of Sherry Chairman, Dave Homb was an early advocate for going after grant funds.
“The need for fast, reliable and affordable internet service has been an issue for Town of Sherry residents,” said Homb. “These grants are a big step forward in filling this need.”
“For Bug Tussel, creating a level playing field for rural communities has always been our focus,” stated Steve Schneider, founder, President/CEO of BTW. “Offering high speed Internet services to people who live, learn, work and play in Wood County will grow a plethora of services ranging from telehealth, agribusiness and cloud computing to artificial intelligence, VR gaming, and virtually every aspect of life requiring a data highway.”
Total project cost is estimated at $3.66 million. $992,221 will be covered by the two PSC grants. That amount will be matched by Wood County, with the remainder invested by BTW.
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