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Dane County forms task force to expand internet access

April 24, 2021 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Officials in Dane County have created a task force to explore how to expand internet access for rural residents.

The county board voted on Thursday to create the task force, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 94% of rural Dane County homes have access to at least three broadband providers and the remaining 6% have access to at least two providers.

But county Sup. Melissa Ratcliff, who pushed for the task force, says that information is outdated and inaccurate. According to the resolution creating the task force, 25% of rural county residents lack accessible, reliable and affordable broadband.

Sup. Kate McGinnity said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the lack of access as more activities from school classes to social interaction shifted online.

“(Internet access) is as vital as water or electricity, and yet way too many people in Dane County don’t have access to it,” McGinnity said.

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The task force will research where broadband holes exist and help towns and villages apply for federal or state grants to expand their infrastructure, including telephone lines and fiber-optic cables. The task force also will hold public hearings to discuss access challenges and develop recommendations on what more the county can do to expand the broadband network.