One La Crosse area power company is celebrating a government grant of $15 million to expand high-speed internet service through a four-state region.
Dairyland Power hosted a roundtable discussion about internet access Thursday, bringing in two experts with White House work experience — Don Graves, deputy secretary of commerce under President Joe Biden, and former labor secretary Tom Perez, who now works at the White House on intergovernmental affairs.
The two visitors from Washington discussed internet needs with a local panel that included farm officials, educators, and an area high school student.
Graves noted that the Dairyland grant comes from a $50 billion fund set aside for improving technology.
“Fifty billion dollars sounds like a lot of money,” Graves said, “but in the grand scheme of things, when you’re trying to invest in every part of the country, to build a high-speed internet system, when you’re laying fiber optics, when you’re also making sure that people have access to digital training, those dollars have to be used effectively.”
Perez called broadband access a “fundamental right,” much as people also need access to electricity and water.
“It’s a healthcare imperative, ” Perez said, “if you do telemedicine, you need to have access to high-speed internet.”
“If you have a small business, and you want to grow that business, you need it,” he added. “It’s an educational imperative. If you have children at home, you need it.”
Graves said providing more access to broadband will help communities grow and assist families in becoming more successful.