A new report shows some progress on improving rural access to broadband in Wisconsin, but also finds Wisconsin lagging in areas. The accessibility of broadband has grown in importance to the health of Wisconsin, as telehealth rapidly emerges as a key tool to provide better access to health care in rural areas.
According to the report released by Forward Analytics on November 11, Broadband in Rural Wisconsin: Identifying Gaps, Highlighting Successes, Wisconsin’s rural accessibility of 25Mbps broadband lags the national average, but fares better than the national average for 10Mbps broadband.
“[Twenty-five percent] of rural residents lack access to 25 Mbps broadband, the speed which is now considered the standard,” Forward Analytics wrote in the report. “Wisconsin’s level of inaccessibility is worse than the national average and 35 other states.”
But also noted in the report is that “[a]ccess levels at speeds of 10 Mbps or higher are better than the U.S. average—93.6% of rural Wisconsin residents had access to those speeds vs. 91.3% nationally.”
Forward Analytics is optimistic about moving more rural residents from 10Mbps to 25MBps, writing in the report “In areas with 10 Mbps access, the strategy for achieving universal 25 Mbps access will involve upgrading current service rather than bringing new broadband to areas where it does not exist.”
The report detailed rural broadband access and speed by county in 2019 and noted that various counties with high rural 25Mbps broadband access had significantly different mixes of cable, DSL, fiber, and wireless technologies.
“Local governments can play a leadership role in solving the problem of adequate universal broadband,” the report concluded. “They are uniquely positioned to identify underserved areas, which is a critical first step in addressing the access issue.”