The $1 trillion federal infrastructure plan that passed late last year guarantees $65 billion in funding to improve broadband access for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission said it’s planning to award up to $100 million in broadband-expansion grants by early summer 2022. Applications are due March 17.
Communities across the state and country are edging into position to vye for this money, which will help them connect their residents and businesses with reliable, affordable broadband service. Among Door County’s 19 municipalities, some are closer to this starting gate than others, such as the Town of Baileys Harbor (see the related story), which could serve as a model for other communities.
The County of Door and the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) want to help all local communities position themselves with competitive applications for funds, acting as a kind of consultant. But they also need a comprehensive approach to integrate all the systems so that, in essence, the entire county is equitably served.
If You Want to Attend
The County of Door and the Door County Economic Development Corporation will conduct a public-information meeting about broadband on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 6 pm, at the Community Center/ADRC, 916 N. 14th Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. If you have questions about the meeting, contact Steve Jenkins, DCEDC executive director, at 920.421.3777, or Ken Pabich, Door County administrator, at 920.746.2552. The meeting will also be available virtually. Go to Zoom.com, click on “Join a Meeting,” then enter the following Meeting ID: 899 3039 3181, Passcode: 651025 (or telephone: 1 312 626 6799).
To show what is here, what is needed and how to go about delivering reliable service to all, the DCEDC commissioned an assessment last year that shows how to move forward on addressing broadband needs throughout the county.
That plan was presented to elected leaders across the peninsula last week. Another presentation for the public is scheduled for next week, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 6 pm, either in person or via Zoom.
The main topic of the meeting will be the DCEDC-commissioned broadband assessment jointly financed by the County of Door, the Sturgeon Bay and Southern Door school districts, Renard’s Cheese/Rosewood Dairy, Door County Medical Center, the Raibrook Foundation, Washington Island Electric Cooperative, and the towns of Baileys Harbor, Brussels, Clay Banks, Egg Harbor, Jacksonport, Liberty Grove, Sevastopol and Sturgeon Bay.
Door County Administrator Ken Pabich said he’ll be asking the county’s Administrative Committee for the OK to establish a new standing or main committee, and to use some of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to hire a broadband coordinator.
“We can use the federal funds for three years, and it will likely take five to seven years” to connect all of Door County, Pabich said.
A public hearing on the county’s ARPA funds and plans for them was scheduled for the evening of Jan. 12, the day this issue of the Peninsula Pulse went to press.
Although the DCEDC commissioned the broadband assessment, the county is now taking the lead to elevate the project’s visibility and put more substance and funding behind it, Pabich said.
“We’re really stepping into this and making it a high priority,” he said.
He said the county and the DCEDC will remain strong partners on the project. According to a graphic prepared by the county, DCEDC will also have a role on the broadband-oversight committee that Pabich will seek to add.