What’s Happening Under the Capitol Dome: WEDA Legislative Bill Tracker
In addition to work on the state budget, legislators are also taking action on stand-alone, non-budget legislation, including many that impact economic development across the state. In fact, a recently unveiled proposal supported by WEDA would help modernize the state’s Rural Broadband Expansion Grant Program, which was created in 2013 to encourage broadband expansion into Wisconsin’s unserved and underserved areas.
More specifically, the bill aims to enhance the successful grant program to help ensure it directs broadband expansion funding to communities with the greatest need – those that are truly unserved. The proposal also looks to better align the program with the constantly evolving technological landscape.
The bill would make the following changes to the current broadband expansion grant program:
- Eliminate the “underserved” category under the grant program to focus on truly unserved communities. The bill also redefines “unserved” to mean broadband delivered at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up or less. This speed benchmark better aligns with technology realities and consumer expectations.
- Give grant priority to expansion projects that have at least 50% matching funds.
- Give priority to projects that offer speeds at 900 Mbps or greater.
- Implement greater accountability by requiring project completion reports to ensure advertised speeds and access are met.
- Require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to provide technical support to local projects.
- Require the PSC to offer grant writing assistance and provide educational tools for local projects.
- Require each internet service provider that receives a grant to disclose their coverage availability data to the PSC to improve broadband coverage mapping.
The bill has yet to be officially introduced, but will hopefully garner strong bipartisan support. The WEDA Government Affairs Team will keep you informed on the latest developments as the bill moves through the legislative process.
You can also stay up-to-date on other legislation WEDA is actively lobbying on to promote economic growth, by taking advantage of the WEDA Bill Tracker tool.