10/14/2019- The effort to expand broadband access in Marinette County has been slow-going, but progress is being made. Astrea, formerly Packerland Broadband, received a state grant for an FY 2018 program to place broadband equipment on seven towers throughout the more rural areas of the county and while that has been done at some locations, none of those systems are online and delivering service to residents yet. County Administrator John Lefebvre says while that work continues, he’s already looking toward further expansion in the future and has reached out to Astrea and now CenturyLink, as well, to propose partnering with either company on new expansion grant applications.
“CenturyLink has unique underground service and they are in certain areas of the county and I’m sure they have some kind of an expansion plan associated and I’m sure if they got grant funds from the State of Wisconsin they would probably move forward with that expansion of their underground service…We would like to look at both of those service providers and see if we can entice them to throw some money into it, get some state money, and the county would throw a little money into it to try to expand those services.”
And, while the focus is on bringing new or better internet access to underserved parts of the County, Lefebvre says there are still some limitations to getting it to the most remote regions.
“These broadband companies are only going to put money towards a project that they can see is going to pay for them- that they’re going to be able to maintain the equipment, that they’re going to have enough users. So to just put money into a site that can service ten people may not be wise, obviously.”
If the County were to seek a grant partnership with either Astrea or CenturyLink, that grant application and project would have to be signed off on by the County Board.