The Voice of Alexandria reports on broadband funding in Wisconsin…
Gov. Tony Evers last week vetoed SB 365, which would have expanded high speed internet service in rural parts of the state.
The governor said expanding broadband access is one of his top priorities, but scuttled the plan because he doesn’t like how Republican lawmakers were going about it.
“The Broadband Expansion Grant Program provides funding for broadband infrastructure in areas where private sector investment is insufficient,” Evers wrote in his veto message. “[The] statutory challenge process will delay the delivery of critical broadband services to rural parts of Wisconsin.”
But Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said Evers’ veto will actually hurt rural communities across Wisconsin.
A key point here is that he is trying to remove a clause that will delay broadband deployment. He spells out his intention in a letter to the Senate…
…This bill also modifies the criteria by which the Public Service Commission may award grants under the Broadband Expansion Grant Program, including codifying and making changes to existing procedures that allow an Internet service provider to challenge the awarding of a grant if it currently provides broadband service to the area at the minimum download and upload speeds defined in the bill or if it credibly plans to complete construction of broadband infrastructure and provide broadband services at the minimum speed levels defined by the bill within 24 months. Under the bill, the Commission is required to evaluable such a challenge and prohibits it from funding the grant if it determines the challenge to be credible.
I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to the creation of a procedure that would allow Internet service providers to block competition in rural and outlying areas of the state for up to two years by interfering with grants to other providers, potentially leaving residents with no service, inadequate service, or unaffordable service for a longer period. The Broadband Expansion Grant Program provides funding for broadband infrastructure in areas where private sector investment is insufficient. The statutory challenge process will delay the delivery of critical broadband service ro rural areas of Wisconsin, which will leave rural students and residents further behind and put area small businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
The grants in Minnesota are set up in a similar way. What Governor Evers described has happened in some areas. Also, some communities opt out of pursuing grants because they suspect their applications will be challenged and applying takes significant resources.
With unprecedented amounts of money being invested in the upcoming years, it’s important to consider the impact of putting a community in a penalty box this way. The danger is that they money runs out before their penalty minutes run out. And this kind of money will not likely be invested again.