Eau Claire (WQOW) - Business and government leaders hope to connect when it comes to high-speed internet.
Wired Wisconsin estimates 26 percent of rural residents in the state don't have access to broadband internet. Some areas that already have it don't have adequate broadband. On Thursday, a forum was held in Eau Claire to discuss the future of broadband.
As a software and data service company, Applied Data Consultants relies heavily on the internet.
"We host a lot of those applications, a lot of them for local government we host in an attempt to keep the cost down, so we try to do a lot of our own hosting, but that of course relies on some pretty high-speed broadband internet," says Jim Ward, Applied Data Consultants President.
However, broadband internet isn't available in all parts of the state. Ward says that can slow down business.
"You lose a little bit of the efficiency this type of technology affords you in that they don't have to run all the way back to the warehouse, find out what they need," says Ward.
Thad Nation, with Wired Wisconsin, says expanding broadband to the entire state could help attract jobs.
"Whether it's for orders, whether it's for linking their employees, whether it's for getting their suppliers this has become as important to a business as electricity or a telephone, sometimes even more important," says Thad Nation, Wired Wisconsin Executive Director.
Expanding broadband to all parts of the state will require work by both the private and public sectors. Forums, like Thursday's, are a way to get that dialogue going.
"I heard one statistic that says you have to have 200 customers per mile to make it profitable," says Sen. Terry Moulton (R) 23rd Senate District. "Well that's just not feasible in some of the rural areas so maybe something like a tax incentive to provide a business the opportunity to invest in that area."
And growing broadband in an area is something Ward is familiar with.
"There was only one option when we started transitioning to internet-based software and it was costly, it certainly stymied growth a little bit," says Ward. "The state helped with some tax credits, they helped us connect up to another ISP in the area so we had two options and certainly within the last two years a third option and even a fourth has been available."
Nation says not only is broadband important in attracting businesses to the state, but employees are also looking for jobs in areas were broadband is widely available to use at home.
According to the FCC, it would cost $350 billion do expand broadband coverage to the entire United States.