At its monthly meeting Monday, the Barron County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation on broadband expansion in Barron County by Scott Behn, CEO of Mosaic Telecom.
In his monthly report to the Board, county administrator Jeff French explained the reason for the presentation. “Based on the fact that broadband is critical to economic development, it is my opinion the Board should be aware of what is happening in this area.”
In a media presentation, Behn said, “Technology is always changing, and we believe that our rural communities deserve the same, if not better, technology than the urban areas have.
“In 2016-2017, Mosaic Telecom invested over $2 million into our communities to provide better quality and faster service to our customers. By having access to 1 gig Internet speeds in rural Barron County, we believe we can attract and retain people and businesses to live and spend money in this beautiful county we call home.”
Behn told the supervisors that in 2016, Mosaic invested $565,000 for infrastructure for broadband and high speed to the communities of Almena, Dallas and Prairie Farm. In 2017, it spent $1.3 million in the Village of Cameron and City of Barron. In 2018, it plans to spend $1.5 million in Cameron “East,” Almena, Dallas and the cities of Chetek and Rice Lake.”
Supervisor Louie Okey asked if the company has availed to Gov. Scott Walker, who is providing grants for broadband expansion in rural areas. Behn said it does not qualify in those areas where they have already made investments.
He said Mosaic wants to “own the market” in the traditional Chibardun cooperative area. That goal doesn’t come without a price. “Increasing broadband is not cheap,” the CEO told the board.
Youtube and Netflix are the largest users of broadband in our county and across the United States.
Supervisor Bill Schradle wondered if the company is not making a lot of money off their investments, are they setting up for the future?
Behn replied, “We’re either part of the future or left in the past.”
He told the story of a woman who formed her own company at her Sand Creek studio and hosts webinars from there. He asked, “Why not work from your home or cabin? We can make that happen.”
“We’re making some huge investments in the county,” he said, adding that home values go up significantly when they have high-speed fiber over dial-up.
Behn said, “The evidence is mounting that investing in fiber improves the economic performance of a community as well as its quality of life.”
The CEO also touted its employees who volunteered over 3,150 hours in 2017.
“Being involved in the communities we serve and live in is something that our employees find pride in,” he said.
Supervisor Andrew Mommsen asked if WITC provides training for that line of work. Behn replied that “WITC is a huge partner and we have an ongoing partnership with them.”
Behn admitted that coming from Nebraska, he wondered if he was going to find the talent needed in Cameron, Wisconsin. He said he was pleasantly surprised to find “top-line employees.”