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Superior among five Wisconsin cities awarded $32.3 million for broadband Internet

Posted on Aug 18, 2010
Federal stimulus fund grants will expand broadband communications access for several institutions in Superior.

High-capacity Internet access will be improved in five pilot communities - including Superior -- thanks to $32.3 million in federal grants announced Aug. 18 by University of Wisconsin-Extension Provost and Vice Chancellor Christine J. Quinn. UW-Extension led the grant application process.

The larger of the two grants will provide $29.9 million to expand broadband connections for public safety agencies, healthcare providers, schools and community organizations in Superior, Platteville, Wausau and the Chippewa Valley region. A separate $2.4 million grant will support education and outreach in the same four communities and in the Menominee Nation. 

"High-capacity Internet access is critical to the growth of our state's economy and the well-being of all our citizens," a representative for Gov. James Doyle said.  "No community can afford to be left behind. This investment will benefit everyone, including entrepreneurs, businesses, students and families."

Effects in Superior

In Superior, the grant will lead to broadband access to city and county government, Superior public schools, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical Institute and the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

"This lays a foundation for the community institutions to collaborate to provide services to the community," said Mary Schoeler, chief information officer at UW-Superior.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, speaking at UW-Superior following the UW Extension announcement, said extending broadband service to outstate Wisconsin "a must" for economic development. "It's an essential of modern life," he said.

Vital to business

Julianne Raymond, director of the Small Business Development Center at UW-Superior, said extending broadband service to Superior is vital to the business economy.

"Increased access to high speed Internet can level the playing field for rural business owners competing with urban businesses," she said. "The rural economy will be able to rely on broadband connectivity to do many things; to name a few: attract a younger, college-educated workforce, stimulate investment and participation in research and innovation, better serve tourists, and conduct e-commerce that many cannot do with the current infrastructure."

Quinn said UW-Extension's role was to facilitate partnerships among the public and private interests and to promote community engagement. 

"This effort is community driven! This is a wonderful example of the Wisconsin Idea at work," she said. "People all over the state will be able to learn from the experience of these five pilot communities. The long-term impact will be stronger communities with broader access to education, employment, global markets, health care and other resources."

600 miles of fiber optic cable

The $29.9 million infrastructure grant will build more than 600 miles of fiber optic cable impacting 39 communities. Statewide, the network is expected to connect up to 182 institutions.  Altogether, the grants will bring high-capacity Internet access closer for 139,000 households and 9,000 businesses by making it easier for private companies to provide last-mile service.

The $2.4 million education grant will help build demand for high-capacity Internet service by government, business and residential users by teaching underserved groups and individuals about the use and advantages of high-capacity broadband.

Numerous state partners

In addition to the UW-Extension, statewide public and private partners include the University of Wisconsin System, WiscNet, CCI Systems, Inc., the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.  Each of the five locations also has local partners that have contributed time and money to the project.

"Through this project, Wisconsin communities will benefit from the combined strengths of private and public partners, including CCI Systems' technological expertise and UW-Extension's educational expertise and community outreach," said John P. Jamar, chief executive officer of CCI Systems, Inc. "We look forward to working closely with UW-Extension and all of the other partners to make this project a success."

The grants were awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The University of Wisconsin-Extension extends the resources and research of the University of Wisconsin System statewide. UW-Extension includes Cooperative Extension offices in 72 counties and three tribal nations, 12 Small Business Development Centers, Outreach and E-Learning programs delivered via the 26 UW System campuses and distance-learning channels, as well as the statewide networks of Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television.

 

News Contact: Al Miller | 715-394-8260 | amiller{atuws}
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