EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - Getting high speed internet into the homes of rural Wisconsinites has been a priority for Governor Tony Evers, and now Space X's Starlink program is bringing internet to some people in rural Eau Claire County.
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"If anyone would have told me five years ago that I'd be standing here talking about broadband and bringing internet to people through a satellite, I don't think we would have believed it," Evers said.
At the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport on Thursday, he, along with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and local Eau Claire leaders, announced the Starlink pilot program, saying 50 people and businesses in Eau Claire County will now receive the equipment and internet service and will test how it performs.
"This is a really interesting and exciting development in technology in delivering broadband access," Evers said.
While efforts have been made over the years to get highspeed internet to more Wisconsinites, many are still without, and the pandemic has underscored the digital divide.
"We've seen during the pandemic the real challenges of not having access to quality broadband," said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC.
A divide that for the 50 participants in the pilot program, is closing, and with financial help. The equipment to connect to Starlink's internet and fee to use it will be paid for by the WEDC and Eau Claire County for a year.
“So folks, it's 2021, having access to highspeed internet is no longer a luxury it is a necessity," Evers said.
The pilot program is also planned for parts of Jackson and Trempealeau counties when it becomes open to any resident in the pilot program area. As for when and if Starlink will expand to other areas of the state, Evers said he anticipates it, but it would take time.