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River Falls Township: Town Board hears hopes of providing home access to broadband Internet

Dave Matthews, chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Review Committee, presented information to the River Falls Town Board last week on the importance of providing broadband Internet access to town residents.

Advantages for home access to broadband include: Greater appeal to potential home buyers; maintaining a rural population; greater educational opportunities for public school children and children that are home schooled; and superior operating capabilities for home-based businesses.

Matthews reported that the cost of running cable for the purpose of accessing the Internet is between $20-$30 thousand per mile.

River Falls has 60 miles of public roads so the cost could run as high as $1.8 million. In addition, providing broadband Internet access to residents would cost approximately $1.5 million.

"This is completely beyond the scope of our budget and home based technologies such as satellite or high speed wireless Internet are too expensive for average rural family incomes," reported Matthews.

Matthew's idea for providing broadband Internet service to rural towns is to request funding from the federal economic stimulus package expected later this year.

Matthews drafted a letter and presented it to the Town Board with the intent of sending it to Wisconsin legislators. The letter asks for state support in funding the telecommunication infrastructure needs in rural communities with a request that the town of River Falls be considered a pilot community.

Other facts contained in the letter include:

According to a 2007 PEW/Internet study, only 31% of rural homes had high speed Internet service compared to 50-100% in densely populated states.

The Fiber-to-Home Council recently called for government action to achieve affordable high speed Internet for all Americans by 2015.

Board members expressed their support for Matthew's ideas and indicated they would follow through with sending the letter to state legislative representatives.

In other action, Chairwoman Diana Smith shared a report she received showing the number of residents who are delinquent in paying for fire calls.

The City of River Falls Fire Department charges $500 per fire call to the owner of the property whether it be a six-hour blaze or a false alarm.

Board members discussed ideas on how to collect the fees and will develop a course of action at a future meeting.