Wisconsin grant funds program testing satellite Internet in an underserved area

The State of Wisconsin is funding a pilot program to test satellite internet connectivity in rural areas. 

The project will use a $27,500 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which is a public-private partnership. 

The service is using SpaceX’s Starlink low Earth orbit satellites that can provide high-speed internet in rural areas where broadband is limited or not available.

Dave Hayden is Eau Claire County’s information systems director.  He says, “Ron Perry is an agriculture salesperson and has a seed company, so yes, agriculture is one of the categories we were focusing on for participants.”

Hayden tells Brownfield He tells Brownfield fifty people ranging from farmers to students will test Elon Musk’s new Internet service. “We’re moving forward hopefully in the next couple of weeks and notifying the participants that we’ve selected, and getting them connected, and then during the project, we’ll ask them how things are going, how they are using it, what they’re using it for or what challenges they may be running into.”

Hayden says the test is in a south-eastern part of the county near Augusta that has little or no connectivity now.

Additional support is coming from Chippewa Valley Technical College and PESI Online Learning, plus a group of healthcare providers including Marshfield Clinic, Mayo Clinic, and Hospital Sisters Health System.

Chris Meyer with Marshfield Clinic Health System says they had about 15,000 telehealth visits per year before the pandemic, but that grew to about 165,000 telehealth visits six months into the pandemic.  He says the expanded connectivity can remove some of the barriers and disparities of healthcare by eliminating the barrier of travel.

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