The University of Wisconsin Extension System has received two federal grants totaling more than $32 million, to boost broadband deployment across Wisconsin. Extension Provost and Vice Chancellor Christine Quinn led the grant application process. Quinn says broadband, high capacity Internet access is essential for Wisconsin communities. “Many young families need high speed Internet simply to have educational opportunities for their youth,” says Quinn. “We’re finding that many young families especially are looking to see what infrastructure these communities have.”
The larger of the two grants will award $29.9 million to build more than 600 miles of fiber optic cable to extend advanced broadband in four demonstration communities: Platteville, Wausau, Superior and the Chippewa Valley region. A separate $2.4 million grant will support education and outreach in the same four communities and in the Menominee Nation.
Those communities “were pretty much self selecting,” according to Maria Alveraz Stroud, who coordinated UW Colleges’ and UW-Extension’s grant applications. “The communities that we ended up landing with were communities that had people who were very, very interested on the local levels, so that we knew there was a coalition and a base there that would really do what was needed.”
The improved access will help to promote “The Wisconsin Idea,” which has long been the cornerstone of UWEX’s mission. “Broadband brings educaiton to every corner of the state,” says Ed Meachen, Associate Vice President with the UW System’s Office of Learning and Information Technology. “For those many people, working adults, students who are place bound, broadband brings the opportunity for both face to face and online education.”
Joe Esbrook, Director of Operations for CCI Systems, the firm which will build out the fiber optic network, says he expects survey crews to be out in the next couple of weeks, with construcition of the network to begin in October.