County broadband BEAD task force holds first meeting

Kevin Passon

Shawano County has nearly $21,000 in grant money to help spread fiber optic internet access to homes and businesses.

A meeting of the newly created Broadband Task Force – BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment) was held Aug. 24 to begin to determine how to spend that money.

However, until official rules and regulations are passed along from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, the committee’s activities were limited to electing its leaders, crafting a vision statement and discussing internet access and speeds.

Grant funds will support planning activities that include but are not limited to outreach initiatives, conducting local needs assessments and developing local plans for broadband development.

Access and affordability are the two main concerns.

The goal is to provide internet access at speeds of 100 Mbps for uploading and downloading, which in effect ruled out wireless companies from accessing the grant money. Instead, it leaves the funds for fiber optic installation.

“Fiber is as important as electrical,” said County Board Supervisor Devin Krizan, who was chosen as the committee’s vice chairman.

The county will work with New North, a nonprofit economic development corporation that will provide GIS mapping and other things, to help develop a five-year action plan.

Any committee recommendations will be forwarded to the County Board Executive Committee and then to the County Board itself.

Matt Hietpas, the county’s technology services director, will serve as committee chairman.