Increasing the Bandwidth: IRG’s New Plan to Increase Access to High Speed Internet
What IRG Did: Today IRG released a report outlining common sense reforms to Wisconsin’s Broadband Grant Program aimed at increasing internet availability across the state. Underscoring the grant program’s current lack of integrity and transparency, IRG’s report sheds light on how the program wastes taxpayer dollars, including, most egregiously, funding projects in areas that already have internet access at the expense of areas that do not.
The report also provides lawmakers with a playbook of reforms, including moving the program from the Public Service Commission to the Department of Administration, raising internet speed standards, requiring more buy-in from providers, implementing a reverse auction, and narrowing the focus to private sector providers. Read the full report here.
Why it Matters: Despite the program dispersing $300 million across the state since 2014, too many communities – especially in rural Wisconsin – still lack internet access. Beginning in 2024, Wisconsin is set to receive up to $1.1 billion through the federal Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. Before accepting this massive influx of federal money, reforms must be made to the current program to ensure it’s fulfilling its mission of expanding internet access, wasting no taxpayer dollars in the process.
What’s Next: As lawmakers start to make decisions on the state budget, our report will provide a playbook for improving those proposals and further reforms to make sure we are ready for this massive funding increase.
Have questions? Reach out to IRG’s Director of State Budget and Government Reform Alex Ignatowski at [email protected].