On Thursday, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin announced the recipients of Broadband Access Grants through funding made available by Gov. Evers in May 2021.
The Commission awarded $99,932,502 for 83 projects that will expand fiber broadband internet to more than 28,426 residential and 1,490 business locations currently unserved and underserved located in 40 counties and 3 tribal lands. The grant awardees will provide matching funds of $101,942,388.
Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services located in Ellsworth, received funding for nine projects that will bring broadband to locations in Ellsworth, Clifton, River Falls, El Paso, Martell, Hartland, Oak Grove, Kinnickinnic and Trimbelle.
“Expanding reliable, high-speed internet access remains a top priority for our state and we continue to move quickly to get federal funding allocated so construction on these projects can begin as soon as possible,” Gov. Evers said. “Since 2019, with state and federal dollars we’ve approved projects that will connect over 300,000 homes and businesses with access to new or improved broadband. We are making sure our communities bounce back better from the pandemic.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Evers declared 2021 as ‘The Year of Broadband,’ and allocated $129 million in state grant funding over the next two years for Broadband Expansion.
“The lack of broadband access in our state makes essential services and resources out of reach for many Wisconsinites, which made the pandemic nearly unmanageable,” PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq said. “I am grateful Governor Evers continues to provide state and federal resources for broadband access. These projects put Wisconsin one step closer towards closing the digital divide.”
The grants are funded through the American Rescue Plan Act. Applications were made available on June 1 and were due on July 27. The PSC received 242 applications requesting more than $440 million for projects that will be completed by Dec. 31, 2024.
Internet service providers, telecommunications utilities, cooperatives, local governments and for-profit and non-profit organizations were eligible to apply. The Commission evaluated broadband projects based on applicant capacity, capability, performance, project budget, proposed matching funds and the proposed service area’s existing broadband service needs.
Applicants not selected for ARPA funding are encouraged to apply for the state’s Broadband Expansion Grant Program; details about that grant program will be announced in coming weeks.