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TDS to expand broadband
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By Tere Dunlap

MONROE - Jim Rutledge, Town of Clarno clerk, asked the state of Wisconsin for hardship status because he has dial-up Internet access. He wanted to do his various township reports on paper forms and mail them, rather than online. The state refused.

"Oh, it can be done," he said of filing reports online, "but it's slow. Nothing is fast with dial-up."

Rutledge, who lives on County B about three miles south of Monroe, rates his Internet service as "poor to lousy."

A few miles further south, Donna Hartwig, who lives on County P in Clarno, said she and her husband Nathan would use the Internet more if it were faster. Downloads can take as much as one hour.

"It's aggravating," Hartwig said, who has filed complaints and signed petitions to TDS Telecommunications Corp., their Internet provider.

And the special offers from TDS for combining telephone and Internet services don't apply to them.

"They're happy to sign me up, until they find out where I live," Hartwig said.

Rutledge and Hartwig have neighbors who can access the Internet easily, even living a mile or two further from Monroe than they do.

"I guess it all depends on where they put the substations," Rutledge said.

Recently announced grants to expand broadband access will bring faster Internet access to more people in the area. About 840 customers of Utelco, a subsidiary of TDS, in southwest Green County and southeast Lafayette County, including Rutledge and the Hartwigs, will be getting access to high-speed broadband Internet service, but it may take two to three years before they get it.

Broadband commonly refers to high-speed Internet access that is always connected and faster than traditional dial-up access, according to

"We are very anxiously awaiting this," Hartwig said.

TDS will use $2,823,526 from the USDA Rural Utility Service (RUS), and will invest another $941,175 of its own funds, to extend broadband service further out to residents in eight areas, most near Clarno, South Wayne and Browntown.

"Timelines will vary, but we will have 24 to 36 months from the time the contracts are signed with RUS. TDS was awarded 39 projects in 18 states; all are under the same time constraints, so we will use contractors to help us implement quickly," said DeAnne Boegli, TDS national public relations manager.

The technology to be used in the projects will be a combination of fiber optics and copper wire. TDS plans to use copper landlines for the last mile in most areas.

"Expanding fiber optic further out to the rural areas is critical to deploy broadband," Boegli said. "Fiber optics can be underground or in aerial lines. We do prefer to bury it whenever possible, so most likely it will be buried unless terrain requires it to be aerial."

TDS was awarded 11 RUS grants tolling $25,048,810 for Wisconsin, and will invest $8,349,603 of its own money for the approved projects within the state over the next two to three years.

The grant to TDS for Utelco in Green and Lafayette counties is part of $114.5 million in TDS broadband expansion projects in the United States. The utility service announced the grant awards Aug. 4.

TDS received funding approval for 39 projects out of the 46 applications it made in the second round of broadband stimulus funding, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, in March. In total, TDS will receive $85.9 million in federal grants and provide $28.6 million of its own funds to complete the projects.