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Broadband access, quality are key to Northwoods job creation

It might be hard to believe in this day and age, but there are countries around the world that are considered underdeveloped that have better and more access to broadband service and technology than large portions of Wisconsin's Northwoods.

With that premise in mind, Wired Wisconsin, Grow North and the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday hosted a forum that focused on the future of broadband technology.

Wired Wisconsin is a non-profit technology issue advocacy coalition, while Grow North is a regional economic development corporation which has the goal of fostering cooperation among economic development partners and foster economic growth efforts in Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas counties.

Broadband technology is a tool used by virtually every developing business today to communicate with employees, customers, other companies and to deliver information and records via the Internet. One big problem is that many rural areas, such as northern Wisconsin have very poor broadband service that either does not exist or can not carry enough information at a high enough speed to be an adequate tool for business.

"Without that tool areas such as northern Wisconsin are severely hampered in attracting new business and industry and even keeping the existing business and industry they do have because they can get the broadband service they need in others areas," said Thad Nation, executive director of Wired Wisconsin. Nation took part in Tuesday's forum in Rhinelander.

One of the major sticking points in getting broadband service that can provide the level of capacity and speed to help businesses is trying to have the service provided in a way that makes economic sense and which can reach the most customers possible.

"Five or even 10 years down the line areas such as northern Wisconsin have to find a way to provide the best and the most up to date broadband service possible if they want to have economic growth," said Nation.

"There is no magic bullet or magic solution," Nation said. "But business, government and private companies will have to work together to create a viable solution to this access problem. The government doing this all their own is not the answer, but it can help. State and local governments can play such a role."

Nation said that on a recent trip to Brazil, he found he had access to better broadband service and capacity than many parts of Wisconsin currently have.

"The difference is countries like Brazil and other third world countries skipped all the earlier technology steps and have gone directly to wireless and the most up to date technology," said Nation. "They have taken a quantum leap forward."

Nation said the expansion of broadband access and a higher capacity broadband system allows instant access to information - all kinds of information and large capacities of information.

"Businesses and the people who run those businesses need instant access to that kind of information and the most modern broadband technology and access will provide that," said Nation. "And that's a tool that if you don't get it your area will be left behind in creating and maintaining jobs."

Nation said a side benefit to improving broadband access and quality of service and the creation of jobs due to those improvements, is that the jobs created can help keep young people who graduate from Northwoods schools in the Northwoods because they are able to find a good and well paying job instead of having to immigrate elsewhere.

About 38 people attended Tuesday's forum which was held at the Curran Professional Building in Rhinelander.


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