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La Crosse, WI
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April 23, 2024 2:50 pm

Local News

WI poised to break through digital equity logjam

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Mike Moen, Producer

Wisconsin has announced a big development in trying to establish more digital equity around the state.

Gov. Tony Evers and the Public Service Commission say Wisconsin’s blueprint for digital equity has been accepted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

That means the state is eligible for up to $30 million to implement its approach over the next five years.

Martha Cranley – state director for AARP Wisconsin – called it a robust plan, noting that older populations continue to face challenges in being connected to the digital world.

“We know that at least 15% of people 50-plus in Wisconsin are not connected,” said Cranley, “either because the wires simply don’t come to their house, or they don’t have a device, or they don’t know how to use it.”

Cranley said the lack of connection is especially concerning in rural areas across northern Wisconsin, where aging communities have limited resources.

Stakeholders also note an infusion of new aid is helpful with the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program – which provides discounts on monthly internet bills for eligible households – in danger of running out of money.

Cranley said the state’s plan came together following extensive public outreach, in which her organization helped convey the need for improved internet access for those 50 and older.

“They certainly heard from older people about how important this is to connect to their doctor,” said Cranley, “and to connect to government services, and frankly, find employment.”

Overall, Evers says the plan’s federal approval means more than 410,000 homes and businesses will be better positioned to be connected to new or improved high-speed internet service.

Disclosure: AARP Wisconsin contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

This story is republished from Public News Service under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.