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Legislator demands broadband for far Northern Wisconsin

Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio

State Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, says it’s time for the state to step up with high-speed broadband service or her area won’t be able to keep up with the rest of the state.

If you can’t get a signal for your cellphone or don’t have high-speed Internet, it’s tough to do business. Bewley says the state has let rural areas like hers fall behind because it doesn’t invest in broadband. She says broadband is required for health care and education, too.

“We not only need to invest in the new opportunities – we have to make sure that our existing institutions have access to the broadband that is available in other parts of the state,” said Bewley. “We need to be Wisconsin border to border.”

Gov. Scott Walker says the state plans to invest more in rural technology to create jobs.

“If you want start-ups, they can be anywhere in the world as long as they have access to high-speed Internet,” said Walker. “If you don’t have that with broadband access, we put money in this budget to help areas like the north and others that are less densely populated.”

His Democratic challenger Mary Burke agrees.

“It’s critical in today’s economy that is so dependent on Internet access, whether it’s businesses or individuals, to be able to create jobs,” said Burke. “It’s part of the infrastructure. When I talk about making sure we have the infrastructure in place for a thriving economy, Internet access and broadband is very much a part of that.”

Bewley says double-digit unemployment up north – including in Iron County, which has the highest jobless rate in the state at almost 13 percent – can’t change unless the far north is moved from the bottom of the investment list.

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