By Alex Lasry
Reliable broadband access is a major problem across Wisconsin.
While most public discussions of the need for broadband focuses on isolated, rural communities, the reality is that families in our urban cities, especially Milwaukee’s poor urban neighborhoods, also struggle daily with this problem.
Broadband has become as much a public necessity as bridges, roads and drinking water, and we are finally starting to treat it as such. When an area does not have high speed, reliable, affordable broadband, everyone suffers. It’s harder to run a business, grow jobs, provide quality health care and it’s much harder to go to get an education.
COVID-19 has only exacerbated the disparities between people with access and those without. While some schools have offered Wi-Fi hotspots to help kids at home, they don’t always offer a stable, reliable connection.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan is going to help change that. Wisconsin is set to receive $100 million through the new infrastructure bill, and that will help build on the efforts of Gov. Tony Evers’ Administration over the last few years to expand broadband. This will mean new, faster and more affordable broadband will be deployed in communities across Wisconsin, in both urban and rural communities.
But just allocating more money won’t solve the problem. We need to make sure we are using this investment wisely to bring more affordable broadband to the families that need help the most.
For too long, poorer neighborhoods in Milwaukee have been ignored and taken for granted. Whether it was highways cutting through and destroying long-standing communities, lack of broadband access, or just general indifference to the needs of neighborhoods, we need to start to reinvest in our communities to help foster long term growth.
Equalizing broadband gives kids in school, no matter their ZIP code, more opportunities and access. Online classes should not be cutting out every few minutes, and homework should not be made harder if sites refuse to load. When we talk about ensuring opportunity for all, that has to start with our kids, and making sure that they have every opportunity possible to succeed. I applaud Evers and Biden for putting this issue at the forefront of their policy decisions.
For too long, Wisconsin’s biggest export has been our people. When our kids can receive quality education, no matter where they live, small businesses are able to flourish, wages rise and we will all be better off for it.