Capitol Update
by Senator Howard Marklein
July 17, 2020


Building Broadband

I was recently appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access. I look forward to continuing my work on broadband expansion on behalf of rural Wisconsin in this new role.
Throughout my service on behalf of the 17th Senate District, I have championed and led the effort to expand broadband into rural Wisconsin.  In 2016, I chaired the Legislative Council Study Committee on Rural Broadband, which identified a stable stream of funding, identified other funding options and fine-tuned criteria and processes to deploy Rural Broadband Expansion Grants where it is most needed. 
I led these changes in the 2017-18 Budget and secured $14 million for grants, including a stable funding source of $2 million every biennium ongoing. In the 2019-20 State Budget, I led the investment of $48 million for Rural Broadband Expansion Grants. 
I also authored and passed several pieces of legislation to support broadband expansion:

  • 2015 Act 278 – Broadband Forward Community Certification – Streamlines local permitting for broadband projects.
  • 2017 Act 342 – Telecommuter Forward Community Certification – First-in-the-nation initiative to promote communities that are great places for telecommuters.
  • 2019 Act 128 - Provides a state property tax exemption for telephone companies for property used to provide broadband service to rural or underserved areas.  Incentive for investment.

While there continue to be unserved and underserved areas in the 17th Senate District, and throughout Wisconsin, we have made tremendous progress.  In the most recent grant cycle, there are 10 projects in the 17th Senate District with a total grant award of $4.4 million.  Nearly 18% of the grants awarded statewide in 2020 are for projects in the communities I represent.
Overall, the 17th Senate District has received $7.2 million in Rural Broadband Expansion Grants for 23 projects.  The projected reach of these projects is about 70,000 people!
Broadband Awards to 17th Senate District

Grant Cycle




FY 2020 grants


$4.4 million

5,839 businesses
61,895 homes

FY 2019 grants


$1.6 million

140 businesses
1,267 homes

FY 2018 Round 2 grants




FY 2018 Round 1 grants




FY 2017 grants




FY 2016 grants



46 customers

FY 2015 grants




FY 2014 grants



450 customers




At least 69,637 customers

I look forward to serving on the Task Force and am proud that several residents and leaders from the 17th Senate District are also on the committee.  Brett Schuppner, General Manager of the Reedsburg Utility Commission and Shannon Clark, CEO and General Manager of the Richland Electric Cooperative have been appointed to the committee with me.  Brett and Shannon will bring tremendous knowledge and expertise to this discussion.
This task force will have strong, rural voices to represent the unique challenges in our communities. I look forward to our work together to continue expanding broadband in rural Wisconsin.
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703.