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County identifies broadband projects

County identifies broadband projects County identifies broadband projects

City County IT director Gerry Klein on Monday told the Marathon County Broadband Task Force that grants could be used to create WiFi service for people in Athens and Hatley. He also said an unnamed internet service provider has plans to erect a cell tower north of Hamburg next year that could improve broadband service in that underserved area of the county.

Klein said it could cost up to $5,000 to provide WiFi transmitters outside of both the Athens and Hatley municipal buildings. He said $100,000 in grant funds could be used to connect the Hatley library and elemen­tary school to fiber optic cable that has already been installed along STH 29.

Another doable project, Klein said, would be to extend fiber optic cable to the village of Rothschild elementary school and library as well as the new Riverside Fire Station.

Administrator Lance Leonhard said the county may want to use available grant funds to enhance WiFi outside of the courthouse in Wausau. In doing so, he said, people would be able to participate in virtual Zoom court hearings without entering the physical courthouse. Similar WiFi, he said, could be installed at North Central Health Care and the county Social Services building.

Klein told committee members the county could use grant funds to purchase 40 and 60 foot towers that could be installed to give people in rural, difficult-to-serve areas of the county better line-of-sight broadband service. The towers would be sold to internet service providers at cost, he said.

Leonhard said he was unclear whether state law would allow Marathon County to do such a thing.

Funding sources for broadband enhancements are the already awarded Route to Recovery grant (CARES Act) and a possible Public Service Commission grant.

Gerry Klein