New broadband expansion grants announced

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has awarded the biggest round of broadband expansion grants in state history, boosting access for an estimated 1,600 businesses.

According to a release from Gov. Scott Walker’s office, $7.68 million in total preliminary awards is being matched with over $19 million in private funds. In all, 46 grants are going toward improving high-speed internet access for 1,600 business locations and 18,000 residences.

According to Matthew Spencer of the PSC, applicants for these awards project how many companies and residents they will reach with their project. The PSC uses these projections to estimate the impact of the entire round of grants.

The awards were announced Friday, and will be finalized with a written decision from the PSC at the end of a 10-day appeals process.

Individual awards range from just under $3,000 to $600,000. Awardees getting the most money include:

— Bertram Communications, $600,000. This project includes five new wireless towers being built, and space being leased on two others, creating a fixed wireless service to residents in the northern towns in Oconto County.

— TDS Telecom, $492,915. The company proposes building a DSL service to 26 service nodes in Green County. A separate project, with $351,857, proposes extending service to areas near New Glarus.

— Green County Development Corp., $414,234. Four towers will be built, connecting to towns in Green County in the southern and northwest portions.

— Cochrane Cooperative Telephone Co., $391,807. Cochrane proposes building a fiber connection to homes and businesses in Buffalo County.

— Wittenberg Wireless, $390,011. The project includes a 20-mile fiber route in Langlade County from Hollister to Pickerel. It connects to a Cellcom wireless tower and 427 homes and businesses on the way.

— Amherst Telephone Co., $314,854. The company plans to connect homes and businesses in Marathon and Portage counties

Before today’s awards, the PSC has awarded 55 rants for a total of nearly $5.5 million since Walker took office. Applications are being accepted for the next round of grants, and the deadline is July 16.

“Years ago, electricity revolutionized farming for my grandparents,” Walker said. “Today broadband is revolutionizing education, health care, and business, and improving the quality of life for Wisconsin’s rural residents.”

–By Alex Moe