Joint Finance opposes federal money for broadband expansionA battle is brewing over Internet connectivity after the legislature’s budget committee approved legislation late last week that would return a big federal grant for broadband and end the UW System’s support of a public service internet provider.
By: Kristen Durst, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A battle is brewing over Internet connectivity after the legislature’s budget committee approved legislation late last week that would return a big federal grant for broadband and end the UW System’s support of a public service internet provider.
The private telecommunications industry has been no fan of the UWs plans to lay 600 miles of fiber optic cable in Wisconsin, extending high speed internet access to Platteville, Superior, Wausau and Chippewa Valley.
Bill Esbeck, executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, says at “a high level” his organization doesn’t think that the University of Wisconsin should be competing with the private sector telecommunications providers and offering services “that are already available from the private sector.”
The legislature’s Joint Finance voted to return the $37 million in federal funding for the project, as well as end UW’s support of WiscNet, a non-profit provider of the internet for schools, cities, county governments, and libraries across the state.
UW System spokesman David Giroux warns that end result of cutting these projects would be an increase in operating costs for many public entities.
“At local K-12 schools, at local tech colleges, at UW campuses, and at some private colleges and what you will see is an increase cost to students and tax payers who support those institutions and who count on them for services.”
UW-Madison houses and provides the staff for WiscNet, and university officials question whether it would survive without its support.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the issue may be revisited before the budget is voted on next week.