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Walker, PSC chief, announce grants to aid broadband expansion in rural Barron County

CLAYTON -- Gov. Scott Walker joined the Wisconsin Public Service Commission Tuesday morning in announcing $1.5 million in Broadband Expansion Grants.

Walker and PSC Chair Ellen Nowak announced a $99,000 grant for Amery Telcom, Inc. at Clayton High School in Clayton and a $41,914 grant for at the Iron County Courthouse in Hurley, according to a press release issued late Tuesday.

The grants, which are a part of the Broadband Expansion Grant Program, help to drive businesses, non-profits, and local governments to invest in broadband, which benefits thousands of Wisconsinites across the state.

"In our modern world, it is necessary for our state's businesses, schools, and households to have access to fast and reliable broadband internet," Walker said. "These expansion grants help make it easier for employers to find the workers they need to fill their open positions, encourages our businesses to grow and thrive, and improves the quality of education for Wisconsin's students. Improving internet access opens the door to infinite resources for our business leaders, teachers, students and residents, and helps to build a stronger Wisconsin."

"Access to broadband is increasingly critical to economic opportunity," said Nowak. "The grants give Wisconsin a valuable tool in expanding service in rural and under served areas to not only make sure local businesses and residents can remain connected and competitive, but ensure these areas are competitive in attracting additional economic investment."

Amery Telcom, Inc. provides DSL, cable modem, and dial-up internet service to more than 5,500 customers.

The $99,000 grant allows them to expand their service to southwest Barron County, where there is currently no broadband service, by building a fiber route along the rural roads for a fiber-to-home network.

The project will provide broadband access to around 150 homes and will significantly improve broadband speeds in the area.

The area is predominantly a farming community, and increased broadband speeds will allow farmers to stay up to date with crucial information, such as crop prices and weather patterns.

The cost of the project is approximately $492,000 and Amery Telcom, Inc. will match the grant by providing $393,200., a privately owned fixed-wireless broadband service provider, received a $41,914 grant, which will be utilized to install wireless equipment on three existing telecommunications towers in northern Iron County.

The towers are located in Hurley, and the towns of Anderson and Saxon. All three towers will provide shared-bandwidth and fixed broadband services directly to residences and businesses in the area, and is expected to reach approximately 2,293 households and 30 businesses.

The total project cost is $78,699, and will provide the remaining cost of $36,785.