Walker returning $23 million federal grant for high speed internet in rural areas

Another suprise buried in Walker’s undemocratic, unbalanced and potentially unconstitutional budget adjustment bill is the return of a $23 million federal grant for installation of high speed internet in 380 communities areas across Wisconsin. The reason given for returning the money: the requirements of the federal grant were too “burdensome.”

State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) said Walker’s administration was hurting the state.

“Not only is he turning away construction jobs that would have come with the federal grant to expand broadband fiber to schools and libraries across Wisconsin, but he’s closing off potential to business growth that comes with bridging the digital divide,” Pocan said. “What’s worse, the root of his decision wasn’t what was in the best interest of Wisconsin, rather the best interest of his big telecommunications campaign donors.”

Employees of AT&T Inc. and its political action committee donated more than $20,000 to Walker’s campaign, nearly three times more than the $7,600 they donated to his opponent, Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, according to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

School and library associations said they were disappointed in the decision since many rural communities, especially, lack fast broadband connections.

For the immediate future, libraries will probably be able to increase their bandwidth with the existing infrastructure. But long term, not having the additional fiber-optic cable is a loss, said Lisa Strand, executive director of the Wisconsin Library Association.

“This really could have been a boon for the state,” Strand said.

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