Gov. Evers Announces $100 Million Investment in First Round of Federal Funding for Broadband Access

Gov. Tony Evers announced today that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) will launch a round of broadband expansion funding with $100 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This is the initial batch of federal funds to be dedicated to expanding high-speed broadband internet across the state. Funding will be awarded by the PSC based on a model similar to the successful Broadband Expansion Grant Program.

The PSC will make applications available, including information on project eligibility guidelines, for this first round of federal broadband funding on June 1, 2021, with applications due on July 27, 2021. More information regarding the PSC’s broadband access and affordability programs can be found here.

Under U.S. Treasury guidance for the ARPA funds, eligible broadband projects are expected to:

  • Serve unserved or underserved households and businesses.
  • Be designed to deliver upon project completion internet service that reliably meets or exceeds upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps or at least 100 Mbps download and at least 20 Mbps upload if it not practicable to deliver the higher upload speeds due to geography, topography, or excessive costs.
  • Prioritize projects that deliver a physical broadband connection that achieve the last mile connection.
  • Prioritize affordability options.
  • Prioritize investments in fiber optic infrastructure where feasible.
  • Avoid investments in locations that have existing agreements to build reliable service of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload by December 31, 2024.

The State Broadband Office at the PSC coordinates broadband investment, develops broadband coverage maps, and manages the Broadband Expansion Grant Program. The grant program helps providers find a path to return on investment in areas of the state that are challenging to serve due to population density or geography. Since 2019, the PSC has received 267 applications requesting more than $112 million to fund broadband infrastructure expansion. Over the past two years alone, the PSC has awarded more than $52 million for 130 broadband expansion projects across the state.