Rural broadband expansion plan rejected by GOP
"We should be expanding economic opportunities and investing in the infrastructure that Wisconsin businesses need to grow."
MADISON – In one of the first votes on the 2015-17 State Biennial Budget, Republicans rejected an amendment to increase investments in broadband internet expansion for rural and underserved areas. Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee proposed doubling the funding available for the Broadband Expansion Grant program in order to increase high-speed internet access, support business growth and create local jobs throughout the state.
“We should be expanding economic opportunities and investing in the infrastructure that Wisconsin businesses need to grow,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling. “By rejecting this commonsense plan, Republicans are limiting high-speed internet access for underserved communities and standing in the way of rural economic development. With stagnant family wages, a lagging economy and the worst middle-class decline in the nation, we need a forward-looking plan to invest in our state, modernize our infrastructure and attract new jobs. Today was a missed opportunity.”
In addition to increasing the grant dollars for expanded high-speed internet access, the Democratic proposal would have targeted broadband infrastructure investments to underserved areas and communities with high unemployment rates. According to the state Department of Workforce Development, 15 Wisconsin counties had unemployment rates above 8% in February 2015. Many of the counties with the highest unemployment rates – including Crawford, Sawyer, Iron, Vilas and Forest – stand to benefit from high-speed internet infrastructure upgrades to allow business expansion and increased job opportunities.