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Broadband expansion will speed up Internet in local libraries

MADISON -- Slow Internet connections in nearly three-quarters of the state’s public libraries, including several local sites, will speed up dramatically with a $4.2 million federal E-rate investment in fiber broadband connectivity.

“More than 60% of our public libraries report inadequate Internet connection speeds to serve library patrons,” said State Supt. Tony Evers. “Our libraries provide online education resources for students of all ages, including BadgerLink; services for job seekers; and information on government services. So this upgrade of Internet connectivity will be a welcome improvement across the state.”

Local libraries affected include those in Hudson, River Falls, Ellsworth, Baldwin, Elmwood, Glenwood City, Roberts, Hammond, Plum City, Prescott, Somerset, Spring Valley and Woodville.

Planning for the library fiber upgrade has been underway since mid-2013 and is part of enhancing the state’s BadgerNet broadband network. The actual fiber installation will begin this April and should be completed for approximately 350 libraries by November. Libraries were selected for fiber upgrades based on need. Nearly all public libraries will receive an increase in capacity, often tripled, as part of the program upgrade.

Telecommunication carriers provide the BadgerNet connections. The network is under the general management of the Department of Administration. Approximately 75% of the state’s school districts and 95% of its libraries have a connection to BadgerNet. As a result of the fiber project, libraries will get a 10Mbps BadgerNet connection for $100 per month and up to 100Mbps for $250 per month.

Currently, only 8.5% of the state’s libraries have Internet connection speeds above 10Mbps. All of the state’s 17 regional library systems also will receive significant broadband increases.

Funding for the fiber project comes from the federal E-rate program. Each year DOA’s Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program applies for and receives E-rate funding to help support broadband and Internet connectivity for over 900 schools and libraries in the state. The Department of Public Instruction has worked with DOA, the carriers, and the state’s library community to move the fiber broadband project forward.

“With so much information available only via the web there is a need for ever greater Internet connection speeds in our libraries,” Evers noted. “In addition to information flow, slow connections have limited libraries’ abilities to offer computer training and web conferencing. Fiber is a wise investment in networking infrastructure, and it will greatly help our libraries serve their community’s needs for ever faster Internet connectivity.”