Broadband access within reach for rural county areas

County gets update from Bertram representative
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High-speed internet is almost at hand for thousands of Shawano County residents, a representative from Bertram Communications told the Shawano County Board on Tuesday.

Currently, there are holes in broadband internet service in the county, and getting into the fast lane of the information superhighway can be very expensive or impossible for some rural residents. Bertram Communications, of Random Lake, is partnering with SCEPI to serve the rural areas in the county.

The project is totaling over $680,000, with $274,000 coming from a state grant that Shawano County Economic Progress Inc. secured.

Mark Dodge, Bertram’s director of business development, said that sites are almost secure in five areas. The town of Seneca and Cecil were secured Tuesday afternoon just prior to the board meeting, while the towns of Richmond and Pella and Caroline were finalized recently. There are nine sites in place, with five more expected to come in the near future.

“This way, we don’t have to spend all the money on greenfield, or what I call starting from scratch,” Dodge said. “We have enough for an additional site.”

Winter weather has slowed down progress, Dodge said. The snow has not been as much of a hindrance as the freezing rain, and he pointed out that one of his towers had horizontal icicles on it one time, and a technician climbing the tower took three hours to get the work done instead of the usual 45 minutes.

Once complete, the service will be extremely reliable because of redundant sites helping to keep connections alive.

“Three or four very bad things have to happen before we lose connectivity to the world,” Dodge said. “It’s taken two years to engineer that, but we’re at the point where it’s ready to connect into the rest of the network.”

Dodge said some sites can be ready in less than a week, but more complicated areas could take up to four months before they’re up and running.

“It’s hard to predict which ones are going to be what,” he added.

Bertram has put its main entry point down in Chicago so that area internet service can be captured a little closer to home instead of bouncing from a variety of sites around the country, Dodge said.

“We are 100 feet away from Netflix and every major supplier of information with Fox Sports, ABC and NBC instead of all over the world and back to Shawano,” he said. “In laymen’s terms, when you hit your mouse button or you hit “Enter,” that information comes back in milliseconds versus seconds. Normally, you get a second of response time; we’re down to 0.09 (seconds) response time in Shawano as of two months ago.”