Rural Libraries To Get $4.2M Federal Grant For Technology Upgrades

Fiber optic cable ends
Fiber optic cable ends. Photo: Barta IV (CC-BY)

More than 300 of Wisconsin’s small rural libraries will get technology upgrades and faster internet access this year, funded by a $4.2 million federal grant.

The money will pay for fiber optic connections and hook up roughly 350 rural Wisconsin libraries with better broadband.

John DeBacher is the Director of Public Library Development with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. By the end of this year, he says patrons of even very small libraries will have access to a much faster internet.

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“I think the libraries will be very pleased,” he said. “In many cases it’s at least three times — maybe five times — capacity increase they’ll experience.”

Right now, DeBacher said, rural libraries still access the internet over copper wires that deliver 1.5 megabits per second. He says the new service will be much better.

“In many cases, yes, it’s the copper that delivers that,” he explained, “and to some degree when you get up to and exceed 10 megabits per second that overwhelms the capacity for those copper lines and then fiber needs to carry anything over that.”

The $4.2 million dollars in federal money is being administered by the DPI and the state Department of Administration. DeBacher says local telephone companies will begin installing the fiber optic systems, “as soon as the ground thaws.”