Broadband internet not available, affordable for 1.3M Wisconsin homes

M. J. Electric workers lay fiber-optic cable Tuesday in rural Marathon County near Marathon City. The Public Service Commission says approximately 650,000 people in the state lack home internet access of 25 megabit-per-second downloads and 3 Mbps uploads, fast enough for streaming a video or taking an online class, but still a struggle for families with several people online at the same time.

The number of Wisconsin families without high-speed internet could be much higher than was known earlier even as hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent addressing the problem. 

State officials now say approximately 650,000 people lack home internet access of 25 megabit-per-second downloads and 3 Mbps uploads, nothing special in today’s digital world but adequate for streaming a video or taking an online class. Moreover, officials say, another 650,000 people simply can’t afford the service that’s available to them. 

Only a year ago it was estimated that around 400,000 people, mostly in rural areas, lacked broadband access. But that figure relied on a flawed Federal Communications Commission mapping system that across the nation underestimated coverage gaps.  

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has since gathered its own data, through crowdsourcing and other means, and came up with the higher estimate.

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