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La Crosse County becomes certified broadband community, showing readiness for more internet infrastructure

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Broadband Map

A draft of the Federal Communications Commission’s new broadband map, a future version of which will determine how much of a $42.5 billion federal investment in high-speed internet each state gets. The darker the blue, the better the broadband coverage.

On Thursday evening, the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance to become a certified Broadband Forward! Community. The ordinance signifies that the county views broadband access and adoption as a priority.

Broadband Forward! is a state effort led by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to encourage the development of broadband access in communities across the state. Created in 2015 by Wisconsin Act 278, Broadband Forward! is a voluntary program for local governments to signal to internet providers that the municipality has reduced administrative obstacles to broadband infrastructure.

The ordinance states that La Crosse County:

Will streamline its administrative procedures.Will appoint a single point of contact for all matters relating to broadband network projects.Accepts electronic submission of applications.Reviews and processes applications within the specified time frame.Agrees to charge only reasonable fees for reviewing applications and issuing permits.Will impose only reasonable conditions on a permit.Will not discriminate between telecommunications service providers.

The county has designated the zoning department as the point of contact for broadband projects and all applications will be processed in 10 business days or less.

As of now, becoming a Broadband Forward! Community is symbolic to internet service providers that the county wants to and is ready to accept broadband infrastructure proposals and permits.

In the future, being broadband certified could possibly become a requirement for broadband infrastructure grants or programs as those become more competitive across the state and country.

Some obstacles to broadband investment include length permit application processing times or nepotism for particular companies. With the broadband certification, the state is trying to eliminate these administrative roadblocks so internet service providers have a more streamlined process to provide services.

Charlotte Peters, a community development educator for La Crosse County as a part of UW-Madison Extension, said that those roadblocks don’t really exist in La Crosse County. The zoning department, who handles permit requests, already turns around applications in 10 days or less.

“What comes from (the certification) is more interest and more education to the board on what programs are out there, what the requirements are, what state goals are, what the federal goals are for having access into the community, and then continuing to educate them on the whole process so that they can make good decisions going forward on how the county approaches broadband,” Peters said.

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Chloe Hilles is the local government reporter at the La Crosse Tribune and a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She can be reached at @chloehilles on Twitter or (608) 769-7303. 

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