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Marathon County looks to address broadband issues

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MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WAOW) -- For months a new broadband study was in the works in Marathon Co. looking for ways to expand broadband access.

That study is finally over with the help of Design Nine, a consultant company that Marathon County is using to hopefully address and solve the issue.

"It's estimated that 65 percent of the county has adequate broadband which means 35 percent does not," said John Robinson, Marathon County Infrastructure Committee Chair. "We're underserved and there's a significant amount of population that can't rely on the internet on a daily basis."

Rural areas make up a large part of that 35 percent.

"We know a lot of our rural areas are still struggling to have any sort of access to high speed internet," said Melinda Osterberg, UW-Madison Extension Development Educator. "Some are even struggling with having access to landline phones."

The new assessment study will be the first since the last one was created in 2009.

"That study is in draft form and we're still looking at getting a final copy of that," Osterberg said.

"More and more schools are requiring students to have access to the internet, healthcare, and communication of information and business," Robinson said. "Whether it's work at home or working in rural parts of Marathon County."

"One of the things we did learn through the study is that broadband needs increased about 30 percent each year," Osterberg stated. "So if you think about that moving forward, what's the demand going to look like in 2025? The demand is going to be much greater than it is today."

Within the new assessment there are several different options or solutions to bring change.

"We could potentially lay fiber," Robinson added. "Fiber optic lines to towers and to also build towers but rely on the private sector to transmit the signal to individual homes, and actually provide the services."

Solidifying a plan may take significant time but the county plans to meet in two weeks to to go over all of their options to establish a plan moving forward.

Rashad Williams

News 9 Reporter

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