Rural Kenosha gets multi-million broadband investment

More than $2 million in grant money from the state and federal level to expand broadband services is headed to projects in Kenosha County, improving internet access for thousands of residents in rural, underserved areas.

Both grants were awarded by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The federal grant draws from the American Rescue Plan Act. In total, between state-funded and federally funded projects, 154 grants have been awarded in 2022 across Wisconsin.

The larger of the two grants, more than $1.2 million in state funds, will go to Frontier North for a $8.1 million project, bringing high-speed internet services to 3,709 locations in unserved and underserved areas. The spending will underwrite projects in Bristol, Salem, Silver Lake, Trevor and Twin Lakes. The project is expected to be completed within two years.

Allison Ellis, senior vice president of regulatory and governmental affairs with Frontier, said the project was part of Frontier’s new vision, to “build gigabit America.”

“When Wisconsin announced their grant program, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to combine our program with the state’s program,” Ellis said.

According to Frontier’s grant application, about 75% of the locations that will be impacted by the project are currently unserved.

County supervisor Mark Nordigian, who chairs the the Kenosha County Board’s Public Works and Facilities Committee and whose district will benefit from the improvements, praised the project.

“This grant award and significant investment by Frontier North is meaningful for many households in my district and beyond that are now unable to receive broadband. I know many people and businesses will welcome the opportunity,” Nordigian said.

In a letter supporting Frontier’s application, Bristol administrator Randy Kerkman said that the village had unserved and underserved areas that would be able to support remote work, learning and socializing opportunities for both young and older residents.

“The pandemic made clear to everyone what we already well knew in our community — high speed broadband is essential for work, school, commerce, healthcare, entertainment and so much more,” Kerkman said.

The second grant, $872,171 paid through federal funds, will go to a $3.6 million Spectrum project in Paris, Brighton and parts of Bristol. It will connect 918 homes and small businesses with a planned 80 miles of fiber optic network infrastructure.

Kim Haas, senior director communications with Charter Communications, the parent of Spectrum, said the project was another “step forward in Spectrum’s efforts” to get Wisconsin residents reliable and fast broadband service through local and state partnerships.

“Projects like this, that bring Spectrum’s high speed broadband to unserved or underserved communities, can be a game changer, opening doors for new opportunities in work, education and health care for families and small businesses,” Haas said.

Read more at the Kenosha News.

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