Call for Action: Despite millions of dollars in state grants, many still don’t have rural internet

Call for Action: Despite millions of dollars in state grants, many still don’t have rural internet

Millions of dollars in state grants are going to internet service providers to install rural internet access – but hundreds of residents are still without.

The town of Dunn is one small community benefiting from those state grants, where few residents currently have internet access.

“Being 6 to 7 miles from the Capitol, it’s very ironic that our citizens are having difficulty,” said town chair Ed Minihan.

Linda McIsaac is one of those citizens. She runs a horse-training and sales farm out of her home in the town of Dunn. She has spent years taking providers to court and writing countless legislators and has gotten nowhere.

McIsaac currently uses a hotspot for internet, paying upwards of $600 a month for a service that rarely works.

“It’s frustrating when you sit at your computer and you’re trying to send a simple email message and it comes back and says it can’t send it,” she said.

Charter Communications recently received more than $100,000 to install rural broadband for upwards of 100 homes in the rural town. However, McIsaac isn’t one of them. Town employees say that’s because Charter will only install internet in highly-populated pockets of the community where it can make a profit.

“They’re only expanding where they know they’re going to make money,” Minihan said. “The companies have all the power. They literally have all the power.”

Charter responded to News 3 in an email, touting its work with the town of Dunn to expand access to dozens of homes who otherwise wouldn’t have it. In a statement the company said, “Charter is proud to partner with the State of Wisconson on its Broadband Expansion Grant program – and with the Town of Dunn, specifically, to bring Spectrum services to nearly 100 homes in the Hawkinson Drive area. Through increased private investment and public-private ventues we’re extending our network farther and faster to reach more rural Wisconsinites each year.”

Charter added it does consider how much money the company will make when building a network.

“This type of return on investment formula is common across the industry,” the email said. “Charter has adjusted the formula in recent years to become even more aggressive in our network extension efforts.”

For McIsaac and others like her, that formula isn’t changing fast enough.

“The town of Dunn receives state dollars – my tax dollars – and yet I cannot get the service 8.5 miles from Madison,” McIsaac said.