MADISON — The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin last week announced the first round of broadband grants appropriated in the 2019-2021 state biennial budget.

This initial $24 million grant round is the largest in state history and greater than all seven previous grant rounds put together.

“Wisconsin lags behind the national average when it comes to getting our people access to broadband internet,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “This investment demonstrates our strong commitment to connecting the underserved areas of our state.”

“Access to broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” said PSC Chairwoman Rebecca Cameron Valcq. “With students’ school work increasingly being done online, exciting advances in telemedicine, and telecommuting becoming more commonplace, these grants serve to connect people and provide opportunity to all parts of our state.”

The 2019-2021 biennial budget, which Evers signed in July, provides $48 million over the biennium for broadband expansion grants. Additional grant rounds for the remaining funds will be announced next year.

The broadband expansion grants aim to help private companies find a path to return on investment in areas of the state that are challenging to serve. Since 2014, 138 grants have been awarded, and have connected or are in the process of connecting over 4,000 businesses and 75,000 homes to high-speed broadband internet service.

Kewaunee County last year received a $40,000 grant to build a wireless tower and install a fixed wireless service in a location to be determined. A special committee has been studying how best to proceed.

Grant application materials are available now at https://psc.wi.gov/Pages/Programs/BroadbandGrants.aspx and are due no later than 4 p.m. Dec. 19.