Similar to the Norvado telephone cooperative in northern Wisconsin, electric utilities can help bring broadband to rural areas more quickly than large commercial providers.
Taryn Seymour and her family own three businesses in rural Sauk County, about a 30-minute drive northwest of Madison. For the past 10 years, their home internet service has been too slow and unreliable to meet their business needs. “We’re on our third provider at our house, but none of them have worked out great,” Seymour says.
As a possible solution, in 2016, the family purchased a nearby building that had been an elementary school until only a year prior. They had hoped the existing fiber optic cables could be reconnected, but they balked at the price tag of $1,200 a month (plus a $2,500 one-time fee) from the service provider.
Although DSL internet at the old school building has been more reliable than their home service, Seymour is eagerly awaiting the Reedsburg electric utility’s fiber optic cables, scheduled to arrive at both buildings in fall 2023. The utility, established in 1894 for water and electricity, began providing fiber internet to the City of Reedsburg in 1998 and started its rural expansion in 2011, which included an upgrade to 10 Gbps (gigabits per second) in 2022. Thanks to multiple state and federal broadband grants, residents can get a line to their home or business installed for free by signing up early for the new service.
The Reedsburg electric utility is a promising model that could be used for broadband expansion elsewhere, if compatible with local and state policies.
⊕ Back to the cover story, The Road to Rural Broadband
This article was posted in Economic and Community Development, Fall 2023, Features and tagged brodband internet, electric utilities, rural broadband.