09/19/2019- Marinette County Board Chairman Mark Anderson is defending his comments suggesting the library department’s funding be cut in favor of expanding broadband service throughout the county. Anderson made the remarks during the Administrative Committee’s initial review of the 2020 budget last week and Tuesday, dozens of residents turned out at the County Board meeting to show their support for the library system and argue that those facilities are frequently the only affordable and reliable source of internet access for many rural residents. Anderson responded saying there was never a formal proposal to reduce the library budget, but he maintains that the county cannot continue to rely on them to be the solution to connectivity concerns.
“Do you think you’re going to get people to move to Marinette County and you’re going to tell them, ‘Come buy a house in Marinette County. You can take your son or daughter down to the library when it’s twenty-below to do their homework.’? …We lost a thousand-some residents in the last ten years and we’re projected to lose almost 600 more in the next five. Folks, if you’re in business and those numbers are going in a negative direction, we’re in trouble.”
Anderson says, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just in the county’s more rural areas where phone and internet services are falling short.
“I had a conversation with a constituent the other day that talked about how her daughters went off to college. They come home for the breaks and they can’t wait to leave because of the fact that they can’t even use their phone, they can’t do anything. That person doesn’t live up in Goodman, Pembine. That person lives 13 miles from Marinette.”
Anderson says he intends to continue investigating methods of developing better broadband access in the county and, in comparing the Marinette County library system budget to that of other counties, suggested he’d like to see a per-capita breakdown of funding levels.