Contact: Tom Still or Zach Brandon at 608-442-7557
MADISON – Widespread access to high-speed broadband coverage is necessary for the overall health and prosperity of much of rural Wisconsin, a report issued Monday by the Wisconsin Technology Council has concluded.
“Connecting rural Wisconsin: The economic necessity of broadband” urges continued federal, state and private-sector efforts to make broadband coverage more pervasive in rural Wisconsin. The report outlines likely economic and social benefits of doing so, which include:
* Helping small businesses, which account for most new jobs in Wisconsin, to expand market reach and add customers.
* Creating more businesses related to information technology, one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. economy.
* Enabling hospitals and clinics to make better use of telemedicine.
* Providing rural Wisconsin residents with greater access to higher education or continued education through “distance learning” systems.
* Making rural Wisconsin more likely to attract large data centers, which are the information storage citadels of today’s IT-driven businesses and corporations.
* Enhancing tourism, which today involves making the right sales connections on the front end – and keeping visitors connected during their stay.
* Increasing public safety.
Broadband is generally defined as enough bandwidth to carry multiple voice, video or data channels simultaneously. Broadband is fast becoming an essential communications tool for families, businesses, schools, hospitals and most other institutions in America.
The report notes that studies by the Federal Communications Commission and others have highlighted the lack of broadband coverage in much of rural America. In fact, the FCC has reported that 26 million people in 9.2 million households are currently not served by broadband. About 664,000 of those people live in Wisconsin, the FCC reported. If those numbers are correct, rural Wisconsin is much like the rest of rural America when it comes to broadband connections – and perhaps even a bit more disadvantaged.
Specific actions to improve broadband coverage in rural Wisconsin could include:
1. Pushing for a National Wireless Initiative, as described in 2010 by President Obama, to make high-speed wireless services available to 98 percent of all Americans by 2016.
2. Follow through on recent rounds of federal broadband grants, which are assisting communities in Wisconsin and beyond by leveraging private dollars.
3. Reform the Universal Service Fund to support broadband deployment, as recently recommended by the FCC.
4. Clear old regulatory and unnecessary legal barriers and resist creating new barriers that impede broadband development, especially if the market can be encouraged to operate more freely.
This report is issued within the context of continuing public and private efforts to speed development of broadband in Wisconsin, which also include:
* Implementation of a major telecommunications regulation update signed into law earlier this year;
* Continuing efforts by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to monitor telecom trends, regulation, access and pricing for the good of consumers and communities through efforts such as the LinkWisconsin interactive broadband mapping project at http://www.link.wisconsin.gov;
* The proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, which could affect the overall “footprint” for broadband access and quality in Wisconsin.
“History shows that technology has transformed rural America more than once,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council. “In past generations, innovations such as rural electrification, farm-to-market road systems and the advent of basic telephone service helped ensure that ‘farm country’ was not left out of the mainstream of innovation. Today’s game-changing technology is improved broadband connections.”
Still also noted that private equity investors are less likely to invest in companies that lack access to high-speed broadband.
The Wisconsin Technology Council contributes to the state’s high-tech and entrepreneurial economies through its policy work, collaborative projects, educational forums and networking events. The Tech Council is an independent, non-profit 501c3 organization led by a board of 50 members who represent tech companies of all sizes, research institutions, law, education and the investment world.
Find a full copy of the report athttp://www.wisconsintechnologycouncil.com/publications.