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Want broadband? Fill out the survey

Pierce County leaders working on a plan for high-speed Internet access for the entire county are asking residents to fill out a survey to support the need.

"With the money out there, it seems like this is worth pursuing," said Brad Roy of the Pierce County Land Management Department.

He encourages people to complete a Wisconsin Public Service online survey to reinforce the local need for broadband and thus help the county qualify for funding to get it.

Although details won't be released until June, there apparently will be federal economic stimulus money to cover most of the cost of countywide broadband.

"The number we're hearing is 85 percent," Roy said. County staff's intention is to find funding to cover the other 15 percent of the cost.

"Right now we're really trying to see what kind of infrastructure is needed to cover the whole county," he said.

The advantages of broadband over dial-up are that broadband transmits data at a much higher speed, it provides a higher quality of Internet service, and there's less delay in transmitting content.

Also, Roy said, it doesn't tie up a phone line and there's no need to reconnect every time it's used.

"It's always on," he said.

Broadband can be provided in these ways: Digital subscriber line or DSL), cable modem, fiber optic cable, wireless, satellite and broadband over power lines.

A wireless system seems the most feasible for Pierce County, Roy said.

The main grant opportunity is the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Other grants are available from various agencies and may not be part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Goals of NTIA grants will be to provide better medical care by allowing patients in rural areas to confer online with medical specialists and to facilitate distance learning.

Roy said Land Management staff has contacted representatives of local governments, health care providers, libraries, school districts, college, utility companies and public safety agencies. All support the county pursuing a broadband system.

While it's possible some of those agencies might help pay the cost, it's more likely financial help could come from Internet providers, Roy said.

"There have to be partners for there to be a successful project," he said.

When Land Management Department members met with citizens to update the County Comprehensive Plan, staff heard over and over that people want better Internet service. Not only did people feel they had little choice in service, they weren't happy with the options they do have, he said.

Racine County developed a countywide broadband system, but the cost to individual users is $150 a month.

"If that's all we can do, we wonít go forward," Roy said.

Once the department has more information on the possibilities both for service and for financial support, it will hold public information meetings.

In the meantime, residents are asked to fill out the Public Service Commission's online survey.

To do that, go to