Clark County lags behind in connectivity
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – Clark County is one of two Wisconsin counties which lag behind in connectivity.
According to recent information released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, data collected from Clark and Menominee counties shows that more than 20 percent of households do not own a computer, smartphone, or tablet.
Clark County is also one of about a dozen counties with low access to internet. Even in the areas that have access, many download speeds range below the 25 mbps benchmark set by the Federal Communications Commission.
A January 2021 University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension report also showed that Clark County was among Wisconsin counties with the “greatest lack of internet access.”
Governor Tony Evers recently assigned American Rescue Plan funds to help boost broadband access and request more in the biennial budget. While the proposal was denied, millions in grants were designated to improve service.
Government programs have been offering grants to fund broadband expansion for several years.
“According to the White House, more than 13.9 percent of Wisconsin residents live in areas where, by one definition, there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. And 69 percent of Wisconsin residents live in areas where there is only one such provider,” a release from U.S. Senator for Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin said.
A Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework agreed to by a bipartisan group, including Baldwin “will close the digital divide in Wisconsin by investing $65 billion to bring universal, reliable, high-speed, and affordable coverage to every family in America.”
In May, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program began enrolling households to receive assistance for service in the state.
“This federal benefit program is funded with $3.2 billion through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The program offers temporary discounts of up to $50 per month ($75 on Tribal Land) off of eligible households’ internet access bills. In some cases, low-income households can also get discounts on a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer. The broadband providers will receive the money directly for providing service to an eligible household. The program ends six months after the public health emergency or when the federal money is depleted. Participation by internet service providers is voluntary,” a program release stated.
To see if you are eligible, visit the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier consumer portal at www.GetEmergencyBroadband.org. More information is available at https://psc.wi.gov/Pages/Programs/BroadbandEmergencyInternetResources.aspx.