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Biden White House officials visit Dairyland Power to discuss need for more broadband across U.S.

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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 visitors from Washington view an electronic layout of Dairyland customers during a Nov. 30, 2023 visit to La Crosse (photo: Brad Williams)

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.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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