Chippewa Valley Telecoms will tell you that education, health care, and entertainment are the three biggest drivers of demand for local broadband. Deploying fiber is a complicated and multifaceted process involving construction, planning, and the buildup of community and political support. The pandemic has made faster broadband a need and vital to providing healthcare via telemedicine. The COVID-19 pandemic also led to a massive increase in students, teachers, and school administrators utilizing the internet for education purposes. Finally, the increased amount of employees working at home has also added to the necessity of total coverage of broadband. The pandemic highlights how high-speed internet is critical for students, consumers, businesses, and our local economy.
Over the past several years CCEDC has worked with our local Telecom providers in supporting their use of federal, state and community funds to ensure Chippewa County is well positioned to leverage our existing broadband network for economic development. CCEDC knows having the political will for expanding broadband is also an important key to broadband expansion’s success. CCEDC’s advocacy committee has worked with Rep. Rob Summerfield, R-Bloomer (chairman of the Assembly’s Science, Technology and Broadband Committee) to (1) help our local leaders overcome the powerful incumbent carrier lobbyists and their campaigns against expanding broadband, (2) continue to take up the challenge of educating local leaders about the importance of partnering with our regional cooperatives in expanding fiber throughout the Chippewa Valley, and (3) work towards having the Wisconsin state legislature increase funding for broadband grants.
Bloomer Telephone, Citizens Connected, Mosaic Technologies, and 24-7 & West Wisconsin Telcom have done an outstanding job in collaborating with each other and with the CCEDC, community leaders and customers while continuing to expand their broadband services throughout our region. Recently, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approved over six million dollars in grants to extend broadband internet within Chippewa County. These grants were funded from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress. 24-7 Telecom was awarded $529,635 for fiber expansion in the town of Howard and $1.42 million for expansion in the town of Wheaton. Bloomer Telephone Company received $1.22 million for the town of Eagle Point and $663,340 for fiber deployment in the town of Tilden. Ntera LLC’s fiber expansion project in the towns of Lake Holcombe, Cleveland, Estella and Ruby received $673,650 while their project for the towns of Arthur and Colburn received $436,403. Finally, $1.06 million was awarded to Ntera LLC for broadband expansion within the towns of Delmar and Edson. CCEDC is proud of the role we have played in helping Chippewa County expand its broadband services and in supporting our area telecom providers with their efforts.