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Brown County approves 15-year broadband infrastructure deal

A map of existing fiber optic line and proposed fiber optic line. Brown County public domain map

By Mickey Schommer

Contributing Writer

BROWN COUNTY – On Oct. 16, the Brown County Board approved a deal with Bug Tussel AB, LLC (Bug Tussel), an internet service provider located in Green Bay, to expand broadband service to rural areas of the county.

The primary goal of this deal is to connect 911 towers with fiber.

“That was the beginning process from the county’s perspective — knowing that in order for us to run next-gen 911, the future of 911 communications and response to first responders, it’s going to require fiber to the towers that communicate with first responders,” said Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach.

“As COVID came about, we recognized that a lot of our rural areas of Brown County are completely underserved or unserved and that’s a major critical problem. As we saw with COVID, the ability for businesses and students to communicate via the internet was very limited, which put these rural communities of Brown County at a major disadvantage.”

“What brought the committee together was the increased concern by the town of Morrison as elections became more scrutinized in terms of election integrity. The town of Morrison, through the state system, was not able to connect to the internet so they had to drive the election results from Morrison to Brown County. The combination of those three factors led us to the ultimate project that the County Board had approved.”

According to the Brown County RFI 2487, the underserved and unserved areas of Brown County currently include several small subdivisions in northeast Brown County; rural subdivisions in the Town of Scott and the 911 tower near New Franken; the east side of Brown County including the towns of Green Bay, Humbolt, Eaton and New Denmark; southern parts of Brown County, including the towns of Glenmore, Morrison and Holland, as well as portions of the town of Wrightstown, Lawrence and Rockland; western portions of Brown County, including the Town of Lawrence and the Village of Hobart.

When asked about the details of the project, Streckenbach stated, “We have a combined project that will connect 270 miles of fiber, connecting our 911 towers, and then we will be connecting to the municipalities. In addition to that, Bug Tussel intends on [proivding internet] to a minimum of 14,000 households.”

The government of Brown County will see the benefits of its infrastructure deal in several ways.

Brown County will no longer have to manage Brown County Community Area Network (BCCAN), which allows for operational savings as well as the improvement of access to municipal systems and public safety.

The deal will also “provide use of 12-pair of new Bug Tussel fiber pairs at no cost for the life of fiber” for which the towns and villages could connect at no recurring transport charge.

The public will see different benefits through the improvement of internet access, options for telecommuting, business development, tax base growth and will improve cellular coverage in the new build areas.

“By no means does this solve the problem, but it’s a beginning,” Streckenbach said. “It’s like building the first highway through the rural parts of Brown County when it comes to internet. We’re hoping over time that the driveways will be connected but you can’t get there without having the highway. That’s what we’re doing. We’re building the fiber highway to help our rural residents who are underserved and unserved gain access to better or higher-speed internet.”

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