PSC: Receives 124 applications for State Broadband Expansion Grants

MADISON – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) announced today that it received 124 applications requesting more than $62 million in the most recent round of funding in the State Broadband Expansion Grants program. The applications seek to fund projects that will expand high-speed broadband internet access to underserved areas of the state. This is the second round of funding appropriated in the 2019-2021 state biennial budget and the highest request for broadband expansion grants in the state’s history. Since last year, the PSC has received more than $112 million in requests to fund the expansion of broadband internet. “Once again, we received an overwhelming response demonstrating an immense need for funding to provide broadband service. This spring we will decide which projects to fund, but clearly, there is a pattern of higher demand for these grants than what is available”, said PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq. “Governor Evers’ commitment to connect all of our residents is unwavering and I want to thank him for this investment.” “We hear from folks around the state about the need for access to high-speed internet. COVID-19 has underscored this demand and the need to continue to support broadband grant funding, as well as all other alternatives to get people connected,” said Governor Tony Evers. “Our investments are connecting people, but the demand for funding is clearly outpacing supply, so we look forward to continuing our work to expand access to broadband across Wisconsin.”
The 2019-2021 biennial budget, which Governor Evers signed last year, provided $48 million over the biennium for broadband expansion grants. While the Governor’s original budget proposal included over $78 million for broadband, $48 million remains an historic investment.
The broadband expansion grants help find a path to return on investment in areas of the state that are challenging to serve due to population density. Since 2014, 210 grants have been awarded and have connected or are in the process of connecting over 7,000 businesses and 117,000 homes to high-speed broadband internet service. The PSC’s State Broadband Office made the second round of grant applications available on September 1, 2020 and were due on December 1, 2020. For the first round of funding, the PSC received 143 applications requesting $50.3 million. In March of 2020, the PSC awarded 72 grants to extend high-speed broadband internet access to as many as 3,182 businesses and 46,537 homes, including 39,778 locations currently unserved. The PSC is expected to award the remaining $24 million in grants by spring of 2021.
Click here for a list of 2021 grant applicants and here for more information about the Broadband Expansion Grant Program.