In November 2016, Iowa County became one of the first certified PSC Broadband Forward! counties in Wisconsin. Certification through this program “signals that a local unit of government has taken steps to reduce obstacles to broadband infrastructure investment.” As a result, Iowa County has prioritized, when possible, opportunities to invest in broadband infrastructure.
In 2017, and in cooperation with UW-Extension, the county board initiated a broadband study, which helped identify the lack of adequate and affordable broadband services throughout Iowa County. Then last fall (2020), and again with the help of UW-Extension Community Development Educator, Barry Hottmann, another comprehensive broadband survey was completed with over 1,350 county residents participating.
Investment by Iowa County to explore broadband infrastructure options, work to develop a relationship with Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and a financial commitment by the County Board helped develop a County-wide plan and illuminate a path forward. And now with the availability of American Rescue Plan Act (or ARPA) funds and long-term capital budget commitments through the County, this plan is starting to take form and support efforts with several local ISPs. For example, efforts are underway between Iowa County and two local ISPs to provide fiber to the home (1GB up/1GB down) on rural county roads. If this effort is successful, it will provide a fiber backbone to hundreds of unserved or underserved homes across Iowa County.
While this is only the beginning, the work completed to date – particularly the relationships developed between county officials, ISPs, county residents, among others – will ensure more projects are planned and developed.