Data being collected will show providers what areas of Wisconsin are most in need of high-speed upgrades
In the height of what has long been termed the Digital Age, Internet service has become as essential — and as expected in most modern households — as running water.
Still, there are pockets throughout Wisconsin, and even in populated Ozaukee County, where high-speed Internet service is not available.
State officials are becoming increasingly aware that digital service is vital to keeping residents of the Badger State competitive, especially when it comes to innovations in education.
With that in mind, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission is in the midst of cataloging the gaps in Internet access around the state.
Part of the effort involves two widespread surveys of households and businesses being conducted by the PSC’s Wisconsin State Broadband Office.
Notices of the survey were recently shared with municipal offices throughout the county. That notice placed special emphasis on the importance of the service in today’s tech savvy educational arena.
“More and more work that students do at school is Internet-based. Students without Internet access at home are often unable to do their homework,” noted Matthew Noone in an email asking municipal clerks to encourage residents to participate in the survey.
“The equity gap that this situation creates is a serious problem for these students.”
The data collected from the 11-question survey will be shared with local service providers as an indication where better or more affordable Internet access is needed or where no service is available.
For homes with Internet, residents are asked to identify how their service is provided — dial-up, DSL line, cable modem, fixed or mobile wireless service, satellite dish or fiber optic line.
Homeowners with service are asked to list how many digital devices are connected to the access, an indication of how much stress is placed on available bandwidth.
Respondents are also asked whether Internet service is needed at the home by students and/or adults who telecommute for work.
Thanks to its relatively high population density, high-speed Internet with download transfer speeds ranging as high as 50 megabits per second is offered throughout much of the region by such carriers as Time Warner, AT&T, Frontier North, Bertram Wireless and Charter Communications.
However, a coverage map prepared by the State Broadband Office has identified several pockets in the towns of Fredonia, Belgium and Saukville as well as large sections of southern Sheboygan County where no or very limited Internet service is available.
Officials said the survey will be used to better zero in on those “dead zones.”
“It remains a top priority of Gov. Scott Walker to extend service to all corners of the state, and just last week he voiced his intention for renewed, aggressive collaboration on this issue,” said Elise Nelson, communication and legislative director with the PSC.
“Updating the maps and collecting data through the survey are two ways the State Broadband Office works to ensure providers and policy makers have accurate information about demand for service.”
During that speech in northern Wisconsin, Walker said Internet service is a core economic development issue in keeping businesses competitive. He said many enterprises are handicapped by lack of access to high-speed digital communications.
“I think it’s an incredibly important issue. The sooner we can get a fiber network in every part of the state, the better,” the governor said.
The residential survey can be accessed at www.research.net/r/consumer broadband. The business survey can be completed at www.research.net/r/wi broadband.
Responses are being tabulated through Dec. 31.
Additional details about the survey are available at www.psc.wi.gov/broadbandsurvey.htm.
Not immune to the irony of asking residents without Internet service to complete an online survey, it can also be completed by calling toll-free at (877) 360-2973.