MARINETTE—Marinette County Democrats gathered virtually a few days ago to learn about broadband deficiencies in the area. Karl Jaeger, a County Board supervisor and candidate for the State Assembly, produced a slide presentation that showed nearly 27% of rural Wisconsinites are unable to get high-speed internet service.

Jaeger noted that Marinette County ranks 70th and Oconto County ranks 60th out of 72 counties for broadband service.

“Every Wisconsin home, school, farm and business should have reliable, high-speed Internet access,” Jaeger told his audience of 25. “Broadband access affects every corner of our lives,” including our healthcare and public safety, schools and workforce, tourism and agriculture, online marketing and economic development.

He added, “People aren’t moving away from our small towns to avoid our lifestyle—they’re leaving because they often can’t compete for jobs in today’s markets” without broadband.

Jaeger called for expanding broadband by investing in infrastructure, supporting public-private partnerships, and supporting Wisconsin’s Broadband Taskforce and Gov. Evers’ $200 million proposal to expand broadband access across the state. “We need to fight for our rural communities,” he told the group, “because we are being left behind.”

During the Q & A, rural residents in attendance talked about hardships caused by the lack of high-speed Internet access. For example, one man expressed his grave concerns for his wife, whose medical needs require handless communication tools and telemedicine access. A teacher of online courses spoke of her need to be available to students and told the story of a neighbor’s house that burned to the ground because no one, even people at the nearby boat landing, could use their mobile phones. And the daughter of a dairy farmer talked about the importance of broadband access to modern agriculture.

Jaeger’s presentation included this comparison: In August 2020, engineers in the UK and Japan achieved broadband speed fast enough to download the entire Netflix library in under one second. The U.S. standard speed would take nearly 30 years. And with dial-up service, it would take thousands of years.

Because of its importance to the area, expanding broadband service in rural areas is one of Jaeger’s featured campaign issues for the April 6 election.