Broadband Internet project benefits Ferryville-Seneca area

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

Twenty-one people, including Ferryville, Crawford County, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin and CenturyTel officials, were on hand for a presentation about the Seneca-Ferryville Broadband Internet Project Monday afternoon at the Ferryville Village Hall.

“This town was dying and dead if we couldn’t have gotten better Internet service,” said Ferryville Clerk Treasurer Larry Quamme about the newly completed project. “Thank you so much for the Public Service Commission. We have much better and faster Internet. We can stream now. This was big. Now we have services some communities still don’t have.”

CenturyLink Area Operations Manager Wally Purden gave a slide show highlighting the project from start to finish. He explained that six miles of fiber-optic cable, along some steep and difficult terrain, was laid  along Highway 171 from the Seneca Central Office to the Ferryville Service Device. 

Purden noted that the concept for the project began in January of 2014 because the Internet speed in the area was very slow and residents as well as businesses needed it to be much faster. A grant proposal was submitted in March of 2014 to the Public Service Commission (PSC) for the 2014 construction cycle, said Purden.

In May of 2014, the grant proposal was not accepted, but the PSC told Ferryville officials and CenturyTel to try again. The second proposal was submitted in August of 2014 with some modifications, including increasing the CenturyLink match from 30 percent to 50 percent, said Purden. The proposal was accepted in November of 2014.

The project began in late August of 2015 and it was completed in November of 2015. 

“This is a win-win for everyone. Without this grant this wouldn’t have happened,” said Larry Quamme, who noted that the $250,000 project was funded by a $125,000 grant from the PSC that was matched with $125,000 from CenturyTel. 

Quamme said that Crawford County Economic Development Director David Connelly was instrumental in writing letters to the PSC and in helping to obtain the grant. Quamme also praised Prosperity Southwest, to which the Crawford County Economic Development Corporation belongs, for donating $1,000 to help get the project off the ground.

Quamme said that approximately 300 residents now have much faster Internet service, and that improved Internet has been a major factor in the buying of some homes and people moving to the Ferryville area. He noted that the improved Internet has also helped area businesses as well as set up some home businesses. It should also be significant in attracting companies in the future. Small business owners increasingly view broadband as a necessary condition to start operations in a given location.

Holtger Brothers Inc., a utility contractor headquartered in De Pere, Wis., completed the construction portion of the project.

In addition to the six miles of fiber optic cable there is also updated electronics at the Ferryville Service Device. Purden said that before the project, the Internet speed was only 1.5 megabits per second (mbps) near the service device. He said the speed now is 10 mbps. The farther one is from the service device, the slower the speed, said Purden. He noted that the Internet speed for those farther from the service device is now 4 mbps, which is still quite an increase from what it was.

“To see how it helps people is gratifying,” said Ellen Nowak, the chair of the PSC. “It is so important for business and the economy today.”

Nowak said that there is $1.5 million in grant funding available for broadband Internet for fiscal year 2017. The application deadline for fiscal year 2017 is June 16, 2016.

Nowak said that over the past three years, the PSC has awarded 25 grants totalling more than $2.4 million for broadband funding. She said this has improved 12,320 households and 328 businesses which now have better access to E-Commerce.

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