A Baileys Harbor technology and government-finance expert is helping to distribute a survey to residents and property owners, screen contractors, and help pursue federal funds for better internet connections throughout the town.
This summer, town board members heard that an unprecedented amount of federal money could become available for providing high-speed broadband internet service to underserved or unconnected portions of the town and county. This month, the board learned that the state is likely to receive $800 million for rural broadband internet service and fiber through the infrastructure bill that Congress passed Nov. 6.
“There is a substantial dollar figure coming to Wisconsin. We want to get ourselves into a good position to go for that,” said Baileys Harbor resident Kurt Kiefer, who’s chairing the town’s Broadband Ad Hoc Committee. Kiefer was a longtime Department of Public Instruction administrator and former technological director for libraries throughout the state.
To help position Baileys Harbor for funding, residents and property owners will be asked to take a one-page survey that Kiefer has created. It will be available on the town’s website, and property owners will be notified about it in a number of ways. Kiefer has a software tool for tabulating the results.
The town also authorized the Broadband Ad Hoc Committee to find a company to conduct an audit of all utility poles in the town to determine which could accommodate a fiber line for broadband. The committee will return to the board for approval of that expense and contractor.
Kiefer estimated the cost of providing fiber for broadband to all of Baileys Harbor at $5 million, but he said that could be less and things could go more smoothly if neighboring municipalities work together. Town Chair Donald Sitte said that with all the internet problems experienced within the town, he expected the committee “should get yourself in high gear.”
The town board also approved Kiefer’s request for the committee to pursue up to a dozen companies that are capable of constructing, operating and setting reasonable rates for high-speed broadband for the whole town. The committee would then whittle the list of companies to three, examine those and return to the town board with a proposal.
“The ones that we are most interested in are local or regional partners, as opposed to larger types of entities that have headquarters in other places in the country,” Kiefer said. “We believe there are some that are very strong possibilities. We would like to start those conversations.”