$3 million USDA investment to improve broadband services in rural Wisconsin

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
From left to right: Frank Frassetto, WI USDA Rural Development State Director; Congressman Tom Tiffany; Dennis Bachman, CEO/General Manager of Citizens Connected; and Russ Falkenberg, Ntera LLC.

The US Department of Agriculture announced a $3 million investment in rural broadband for Wisconsin's small towns as a way to help grow local economies and keep businesses connected.

Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey made the announcement during the event Broadband ReConnect in Cornell, Wis. on Oct. 7. USDA Rural Development state director Frank Frassetto and representatives from Ntera LLC, Chippewa Valley Electric Coop and Citizens Telephone Coop Inc also attended. The ReConnect Program was allotted $550 million by Congress to distribute to the states in efforts to improve broadband nationwide.

Ntera was given the $3 million grant to create a fiber-to-the-premises network that would connect over 2,000 people and more than 60 businesses to high-speed internet in Chippewa, Rusk and Taylor counties in northern Wisconsin.

"USDA supports both farmers and rural communities through investments in farm operations and essential infrastructure," Northey said. "Broadband is so important to farms and other businesses as it can help improve the quality of life in rural communities and help grow rural economies."

This is the second round of the ReConnect Program, which first began in 2018. The second round applications closed in April 2020 with requests for grant funding totaling more than $1.5 billion. The first round of funding invested nearly $700 million to bring high-speed broadband to 167,000 households, 17,000 small businesses and 500 health care centers across 33 states.