Congressman calls for broken broadband fix

A Wisconsin Congressman is critical of how broadband expansion has failed to progress in rural areas.

Third District Republican Derrick Van Orden told a House Ag Committee hearing on closing the digital divide in rural America that government and private sector sources have spent a lot of money without delivering enough service.  He compared the cost of broadband expansion to the inflation-adjusted cost of putting the first man on the moon. “It cost 257 billion dollars to put a man on the moon eight years after John F. Kennedy said we’re going to do it. We have spent 351 billion dollars in the last five years, and I can’t do precision agriculture going from Crawford to Grant County.”

Van Orden called the broadband expansion efforts a systemic failure and told the hearing farmers need better connectivity now. “Right now, you can Netflix and chill and smoke check a Russian tank in Bahmut, Ukraine, right? And my combine can’t do precision agriculture in Grant County. That’s wrong.”

Van Orden says only 63% of Wisconsin’s rural counties have broadband access.  He invited the six industry representatives testifying at the hearing to his office, saying, “Leave their jerseys at the door and let’s fix this problem.”

Grant County is the most southwestern Wisconsin county, bordering the northwestern tip of Illinois and the Mississippi River, and has a total population of under 52 thousand people.

The broadband officials at the hearing included The Honorable Jim Matheson from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, James Assey from the Internet and Television Association, David Zumwalt from Broadband Without Borders, Tom Stroup from the Satellite Industry Association, Bill Hurley from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and Shirley Bloomfield from the Rural Broadband Association.

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