Hobart seeks public feedback on internet service
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – To improve internet service in the village, Hobart residents and businesses are being asked to test their current service speed.
The Hobart village board approved a motion Tuesday, July 21, to adopt a broadband initiative and directed staff to proceed with the initiative’s first steps, as well as request Brown County to take the necessary steps to facilitate improvement of internet service in the village.
Aaron Kramer said the top complaint in the past three-plus years he’s been the village administrator in Hobart, other than garbage pickup, is internet service.
“There are definite areas where… it may exist, but it doesn’t exist with much oomph, and sometimes it doesn’t exist at all,” he said.
Kramer said he and Village President Rich Heidel recently spoke with Brown County Supervisor Dave Landwehr and two members of the county’s technology services department, August Neverman IV and Kevin Raye, to review the current level of internet service and possible options to improve it.
He said the map showing Hobart’s broadband speed on the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) website indicates the majority of the village is considered to have high-speed internet, which the Federal Communications Commission defines as a minimum of 25 megabits-per-second download speed and three megabits-per-second upload speed.
“Any vendor that’s looking to improve internet service in Hobart is going to go to this map and go, ‘They got it, they don’t need it,’” Kramer said. “I can assure you this map is not accurate. There’s not 25/3, as the federal government defines it, broadband service throughout Hobart.”
He said the map is the “very first hurdle we need to overcome.”
Kramer said the initiative approved by the board calls for collecting data on internet service in the village from Hobart residents and businesses.
“We need them to go to their computers… for them to do a test of the speed of their computer,” he said.
Kramer said one site the village is recommending to do the speed test is: fusionconnect.com/speed-test-plus/.
“We’re going to need people throughout the village to send us these speed (data results),” he said. “Because we have to debunk this (PSC broadband map) before we can go and apply for any grants. Because we’re going to apply, they’re going to look at this and go ‘You don’t need it,’ and we know that’s not true. And we have to prove them wrong, versus them proving themselves right.”
Kramer said the village will collect the data related to internet speed, compile the data and mark a map of the village “to determine the hot spots and dead spots in Hobart,” as well as share the information with the county’s technology services department.
“We also want more than just data,” he said. “We want testimonials, not complaints, testimonials.”
Kramer said testimonials could include matters such as having difficulty with conducting online business, problems having online virtual school this spring, etc.
He said Landwehr will be acting on behalf of the village at the county level to:
• Talk with other county board supervisors from Denmark, Pulaski, Ledgeview and Wrightstown regarding rural high-speed internet.
• Support a broadband committee through the county board.
• Support a Broadband Forward ordinance and resolution.
• Support a Telecommuter Forward community designation.
• Foster establishing a “dig once” ordinance, and work with municipalities to simplify fiber optic installation countywide.
“Dig once” ordinances would be sought at the municipal level (town, village and city).
Kramer said the cost for the village to install fiber-optic cable throughout Hobart “is just not feasible.”
“The county quoted us $150,000 per mile,” he said. “Unless you want go to market and get another big bond, you’re not going to be able to do it, but there are opportunities to… putting up towers to create an umbrella, if you will, of wireless (internet service) across the community.”
Kramer said the county is providing fiber optic infrastructure to numerous municipalities through the Brown County Community Area Network, with part of that service being extended into Hobart and up to State Highway 29.
He said the link will give Hobart options for possible municipal, educational, law enforcement/911, telemedicine and economic development opportunities.