June 13, 2011; Source: WDIO.com | Usually when we read stories about giving back, they're about people doing good things. But as WDIO.com reports, state legislators planning to give back funds to the federal government are doing anything but a good thing for Northern Wisconsin residents.
Instead, if the proposal to return a grant to the federal government goes through, it could badly undercut efforts of a nonprofit provider to expand Internet access throughout the state. According to WDIO. last year the University of Wisconsin received a $33 million federal grant to underwrite low-cost Internet service. Lawmakers who oppose the grant and want the money returned say they don't think public funds should be used to compete with private Internet providers.
In addition to giving the money back, the proposal would prevent the University of Wisconsin and other public schools that are meant to share in the grant from buying Internet service from WiscNet, a nonprofit provider. Peter Nordgren, the University of Wisconsin's Associate Vice Chancellor for Adcademic Affairs and Outreach, says if approved, those actions could prove costly. "We would pay about five times more for the Internet access than we already pay through Wiscnet," said Nordgren.
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Similarly, the Superior School District would be hurt because of the $300,000 it already invested as part of this project. "We utilized the funding from this broadband grant in order to purchase and update our website that was archaic," said Janna Stevens, Superintendent at the Superior School District.
Schools aren't buying the argument either put forward by a trade group that they'd still have access to affordable high-speed Internet. Being forced to pay higher for-profit rates for Internet service "is simply just a slap in our face," said Stevens. "We are going to hope that this is not going to come to fruition."—Bruce Trachtenberg