Proposed state legislation would leave over 70,000 rural residents unconnected 

MADISON, Wis. (Sept. 11, 2023) — Access to quality home and mobile internet is a crucial issue facing Wisconsin, especially for its hard-to-connect rural communities. A new statewide survey* shows rural residents want that access now and don’t care how they get it, but this runs counter to how state officials are proposing to allocate funding that will determine how and where that access will be provided. 

Although home and mobile broadband connectivity is widely recognized as an essential service, it is estimated that 299,000 locations in Wisconsin will be un- and under-served by January 2024, according to an America’s Communications Association (ACA) Connects study done by Cartesian. The same study concludes that Wisconsin will only be able to address 76% of those locations if it solely deploys fiber technology to fill the broadband connectivity gap**. Over 70,000 locations would remain unconnected if the Wisconsin legislature’s current proposals for broadband expansion projects under state or federal programs, such as the Broadband Equity Access and Development (BEAD) program are adopted. 

The proposed bills contradict federal requirements and eliminate technology options, such as fixed wireless, satellite and others, that Wisconsin needs to ensure all residents will gain access to broadband through BEAD. The ACA study shows, connecting all Wisconsin locations to broadband is going to require multiple technologies and cannot be achieved by fiber alone considering location challenges and financial limitations. 

“Our experience reflects that an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach will be needed to connect rural America, and we urge Wisconsin to keep all options on the table. Fiber will be the optimal solution for many parts of urban Wisconsin, however, by not allowing the opportunity to tap into other, proven technologies, rural communities are at risk for being left behind,” says Stephanie Cassioppi, senior director of government affairs at UScellular. “Fixed wireless is a cost-effective and quicker-to-deploy alternative to fiber deployment, and ultimately a mix of technologies is the best approach for connecting rural Wisconsin now and in the future.” 

The statewide survey conducted in July sought to better understand Wisconsin residents’ views and priorities in gaining access to broadband connectivity. The survey found that more than half of rural Wisconsin residents said they wish fast internet would come to their communities more quickly, and nearly 70% reported having no preference on the type of internet— whether that be fiber, fixed wireless or cable— as long as it is fast and reliable. 

“Our communities need access now. We can’t afford to wait five or 10 years. Our students need it for education. Our businesses need it for ecommerce. Our residents need it for quality of life, security and health,” said MaryAnn Lippert, who works with several rural Wisconsin communities in broadband planning efforts. “The results of this survey are exactly what I hear. Rural Wisconsin residents want affordable and reliable connectivity sooner rather than later, whether it is fiber or fixed wireless. If the current legislation isn’t altered, we fear that won’t be an option.” 

Additional findings from the survey included: 

• The lack of access to fast and reliable internet is more pronounced in rural America:

o More than 1/3 of rural residents say their area doesn’t currently offer as fast of an internet speed as they would like. 

o 46% of rural residents are unhappy with their current internet speed compared to only 29% of urban residents. 

• Residents are open to all technologies to provide connectivity: 

• 71% of state residents say they don’t care who offers internet to them as long as it’s fast and reliable. 

• 78% of residents say it’s important that everyone in Wisconsin can connect to the internet, regardless of where they live. 

UScellular has over 100,000 fixed wireless customers across its service area and is enhancing its current 5G network with 5G mid-band technology. With funding support, the company can quickly and efficiently bring fixed wireless access to more rural customers. For more information on fixed wireless and a mixed use approach to bridging the digital divide, please visit

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About UScellular 

UScellular is the fourth-largest full-service wireless carrier in the United States, providing national network coverage and industry-leading innovations designed to help customers stay connected to the things that matter most. The Chicago-based carrier provides a strong, reliable network supported by the latest technology and offers a wide range of communication services that enhance consumers’ lives, increase the competitiveness of local businesses and improve the efficiency of government operations. Through its After School Access Project, the company has pledged to provide hotspots and service to help up to 50,000 youth connect to reliable internet. Additionally, UScellular has price protected all of its plans, promising not to increase prices through at least the end of 2024. To learn more about UScellular, visit one of its retail stores or To get the latest news, visit


Brian Knox

*Between July 5 and July 10, 2023, a total of 300 online interviews were conducted among a mix of urban, suburban, and rural residents within the state of Wisconsin by UScellular Consumer Insights, in partnership with PureSpectrum. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of +/- 6 percentage points. 

** This finding is based on the $1.1 billion BEAD allocation Wisconsin received and a $9,000 Extremely High Cost Per Location Threshold (a minimum cost-per-location-passed below which states cannot consider a non-fiber alternative, regardless of the cost differential). 

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