Saturday, March 24, 2018

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Rural areas in Dunn County call for broadband

Survey finds need to improve access

MENOMONIE — A draft of the rural broadband gap survey report on Wednesday passed through the Dunn County Board’s Executive Committee, and the results show a lack of broadband access in rural areas.

The report is meant to provide information about areas with little or no broadband access in the county in an effort to improve access as well as the county’s broadband infrastructure.

Bob Colson, planning and land use control administrator, said the report shows rural areas are hurting the most and in the coming years the county should work alongside internet service providers to connect these areas with broadband.

“We need to figure out how those who don’t have service get connected to the provider,” he said.

Addison Vang, planning and zoning officer, referred to these areas as “voids” in the county.

“Once you leave those areas of the city limits you have these voids,” he said.

He said the results have been mapped out in the report draft from using more than 30 map sources to give the most detailed look at Dunn County’s broadband status.

In the report draft, fewer than 50 percent of residential respondents are satisfied with their internet. The areas where this is true is in towns with limited access. The survey cites examples such as Lucas, Hay River and Sherman where each town has a greater than 75 percent dissatisfaction with their internet. Furthermore, in those towns, 44 percent of the respondents are without internet access.

For more remote and rural locations, the study suggests new wireless technologies are being developed and would be considered.

Of the businesses surveyed, 72 percent said internet service is available, but more than half, 55 percent, were dissatisfied with their internet service.

Supervisor James Tripp pointed out that, according to the survey, 1 in 5 business respondents has considered moving the business out of Dunn County.

County Board Chairman Steven Rasmussen asked what is the next step after the report draft is presented to the Board next week.

Colson said the report details long- and short-term plans. This year, the study states, the county should involve internet service providers, local jurisdictions, businesses and the public in the process.

Two or more years from now, the study suggests the county progress with a proposed broadband legislation, organize a committee and continuing discussions related to growing the county’s broadband access. 

Colson said this isn’t something that will be resolved in the coming years but the report provides a foundation for the county to work with. 

No action was taken on the report draft, and it will be discussed further at next week’s board meeting.

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