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Evers: Affordable, reliable high-speed internet is "necessity"

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

Over half of Wisconsin's rural population lacks access to high-speed internet, and to Gov. Tony Evers, that's unacceptable.

Gov. Tony Evers

The Governor emphasized the state's support of beefing up broadband access to Wisconsinites living in rural areas during Dairy Business Association's virtual Dairy Strong conference.

"In 2021, it's time to not only work on our immediate needs and recovery from the pandemic, but to look beyond on how we can move our state forward to ensure prosperity for our farmers, our rural communities and our industries," Evers said.

his supportpledged his support for the dairy community today, pointing to an investment in rural broadband and support for farmers who are advancing conservation practices. 

Speaking to viewers at the Dairy Business Association’s virtual Dairy Strong conference, Evers highlighted his focus on improving what he called “unacceptable” internet service in rural Wisconsin.

“High-speed internet is a necessity these days and we have to make sure it is reliable, affordable and accessible for everyone,” he said. 

According to a report from the research firm Forward Analytics, which examined Federal Communications Commission data from 2019, found that 430,000 people, or 25 percent of Wisconsin’s rural population lack access to high-speed internet — putting the Badger state 36th in the nation in terms of accessibility in rural areas. 

To close this gap, Evers says his proposed budget calls for quadrupling the state's investment in broadband service across the state.

"We're declaring 2021 a year of broadband access," Evers said. "We'll be investing about $150 million in the state's Broadband Access grant program and another $40 million in helping low income families."

Evers says reliable, accessible and affordable high-speed internet is a necessity, recalling a conversation with a dairy farmer stymied by the lack of a dependable internet service.

"Here he's trying to keep his business afloat by marketing cheese online...and he doesn't have the solid connections he needs," Evers said. "Frankly, that's unacceptable."

Evers also said that his proposed budget, which he’ll be announcing over the next month, will draw from recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, which outlined 55 solutions to protect the environment.

Among those items is increased funding for farmer-led watershed conservation groups, which voluntarily expand the use of innovative farming practices that improve water quality and soil health and track progress using science. The groups receive grants and other support from the state’s agriculture department.

Evers says the state plans to continue partnering with and empowering Wisconsin farmers to address pollution and to advance better conservation practices.

"I've said all along that our farmers and our producers are some of the most avid supporters we have as it relates to clean land, clean air and clean water because you know the value of our state's natural resources firsthand," Evers said.

Evers says he looks forward to continuing his work with the state dairy industry and praised their efforts during the early days of the pandemic.

"This pandemic has affected every industry and every Wisconsinite. And it has highlighted and even heightened the difficulties that our rural communities and agriculture industries are already facing," he said. "Nevertheless, you worked hard and tirelessly to ensure that Wisconsinites and Americans across our country have food on their table. That's why you have been and will continue to be essential to our state.

"A strong dairy industry means a strong Wisconsin economy, strong communities and a strong future for our people in our state."