Broadband survey finds lack of access; poor, expensive service in rural Lincoln County
1/3 of respondents cannot get high-speed internet; 13% do not subscribe due to cost
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
LINCOLN COUNTY – A report published from a survey conducted by University of Wisconsin Madison – Extension Lincoln County in partnership with Lincoln County said many respondents pointed to a lack of access to broadband internet and poor, expensive internet service in the county’s rural areas.
The survey sought to determine county residents’ broadband internet use and high-speed internet needs. Households in the county’s unincorporated areas were invited to complete the survey late last fall.
“The community anecdotally understood that there was limited access to broadband outside of the county’s incorporated cities of Merrill and Tomahawk,” Extension stated. “However, additional quantitative data was needed to ensure informed decision-making processes and assist in productive communication with area internet service providers, community stakeholders, and potential funding partners.”
According to the report, 1,362 households from throughout Lincoln County responded to the survey. The majority of respondents resided in the towns of Merrill, Pine River, and Bradley, consistent with their percentage of Lincoln County’s households.
The report said that a third of respondents did not have access to reliable high-speed internet service, and nearly 33% indicated that they do not have access to broadband at their residence.
Extension said the lack of high-speed internet in Lincoln County “may also have a social and economic cost.”
“Of the 33% of survey respondents who did not have adequate access to broadband, a third indicated that they were likely to start, move or grow a business in Lincoln County if they had access to adequate, reliable, and affordable broadband internet services,” Extension stated.
The report provided four “key takeaways” from the survey, the first being that internet service in Lincoln County is “generally poor.”
“Even when respondents reported satisfaction with internet service, many did not actually have access to high-speed internet,” Extension said, adding that when respondents tested their internet speed via a link provided in the survey, 78% did not have internet speeds that met the federal definition of broadband internet: speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.
The second takeaway pointed out that “even poor internet service is expensive.”
Extension said 28% of respondents paid more than than $80 per month to access the internet, while 49.1% of respondents paid more than $60 per month for internet service.
The report’s third takeaway was “cost limits access to high-speed internet.” More than 13% of respondents said they do not subscribe to internet service due to cost.
“Other than availability, the number one factor limiting respondents from having a monthly subscription to broadband service was cost,” Extension stated.
Extension said many respondents were “dissatisfied with incumbent internet service providers and wireless technology” in the report’s fourth takeaway.
“When offered the opportunity to share their thoughts, many respondents expressed frustration that incumbent internet service providers were providing a poor level of service or had not expanded service,” Extension stated. “There was also frustration over the lack of reliable access to the internet from satellite providers.”
To view the full 36-page report, which includes summary information, graphs and charts, visit www.bit.ly/3gsk0u4.