STEVENS POINT — State Rep. Scott Krug said he hasn’t agreed with state Rep. Louis Molepske Jr. on much, but the two find themselves on common ground when it comes to the importance of broadband technology for central Wisconsin.
Molepske, D-Stevens Point, and Krug, R-Wisconsin Rapids, took part Monday morning in the panel discussion “The Future of Broadband Technology” on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
The purpose of the panel, hosted by the Stevens Point Association of Downtown Businesses, Centergy and Wired Wisconsin, was to discuss what increasing broadband and mobile technology would mean to the region.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, broadband — or high-speed Internet — access allows users to access the Internet and related services more quickly than dial-up service.
The general consensus of the panel was that Wisconsin needs to increase broadband access to residents, and that the public sector and the government needs to work together to make that happen.
“I believe in less government, but I think this is one of the areas where government can play a significant role,” Krug said.
Krug said he sees central Wisconsin, and areas in his district such as Adams County, as having huge potential for industrial growth, but to grow the area has to have available broadband access.
Molepske said rather than broad policy, it will take a firm commitment from the state to help push businesses to expand current broadband access.
“We need them to move beyond cherry-picking a few customers who can afford services or areas where there are a lot of customers,” Molepske said.
That’s outside of the current business model for the companies, said Centergy Executive Director Barb Fleisner, meaning that businesses will need an incentive to drive that broadband access to unserved areas in the region and state.
Having that access is essential to the state’s economic development, said Zach Brandon, a former deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce who is now with the Wisconsin Technology Council.
“We want to be one of the top states for business, but we can’t do that without being one of the top states for broadband access. The problem doesn’t solve itself,” Brandon said. “We need to treat it as part of infrastructure.”
Joe Brickweg, director of Information System Operations at Marshfield Clinic, said he has seen first hand the frustration of doctors who are forced to deal with limited access in the region, and says improving it will only attract more professionals to live and work in central Wisconsin.
“There is a lot of young talent from places like Madison and Milwaukee that don’t want to come here because we don’t have the service other places do,” Brickweg said.