The state's access to internet service was about average in 2007, with around two thirds of households having a connection although over 12% were still on dial-up from their ISP. An average download speed of 5.2 mbps put the state 26th in 2009, up from 38th in 2008 when 3.4 mbps was recorded.
Activities to improve the situation have been going on for some time. In 2004, WaveRider Communications worked with local companies LVT Corp and Oakdale Electric Cooperative to install non-line-of-sight wireless internet access in the rural town of Mauston, which previously had no broadband service. LVT Corp, which delivers DSL to local communities, was to manage the rollout.
The state's Department of Commerce introduced a Broadband Tax Exemption and Credit Program in 2007. This gave up to $7.5 million in tax incentives to companies providing equipment for broadband internet services to unserved or underserved areas. However, this was based on equipment capable of transmitting at speeds of at least 200 kbps, which hardly qualifies as high speed today.
In November 2009, Wisconsin received a $1.7 million NTIA stimulus grant for broadband mapping and planning. The state's Public Service Commission hired the LinkAMERICA Alliance to undertake the work, believing internet providers were more likely to supply data to a third party. When the PSC had previously asked for map data, AT&T was the only internet provider that obliged.
Wisconsin also submitted 27 grant and loan applications totaling $323 million. These included a $28 million project to install fiber optic cable to underserved community anchor institutions. The state is reasonably well-served for wifi hotspots, with blanket coverage around Madison and Milwaukee and to the immediate north, although with lesser coverage further north and west.
With 46% of its land area covered in forest, Wisconsin has a booming paper industry. Its economy was originally based on lumbering, mining and farming, and it leads the nation in cheese production, corn for silage, cranberries, ginseng and snap beans for processing. Manufacturing now accounts for the largest part of the state's income while health care and tourism are major contributors. Milwaukee is the largest city while Madison, the state capital, is second followed by Green Bay and Kenosha.
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Cities in Wisconsin likely to have, or soon to receive, fiber optic cable internet services include Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton, Eau Claire, Janesville and La Crosse. Locations in WI with highest population counts will be targeted first by providers, though relatively high speeds can be achieved with dial-up or DSL through companies such as Netzero and Charter Communications Cable.