MADISON, Wis. — Regardless of the score of the Packers vs. Titans game on Thursday, many fans were disappointed because being on Amazon Prime they weren’t able to watch it in the first place.
The lack of broadband in homes, bars and other places in the state is something the Public Service Commission is trying to address, but they said it’s taking time.
“I mean, I’ve been to several bars,” said Branden Mueller, who had to scramble a bit to find a bar where he could rep his green and gold and watch football on Thursdays.
“A lot of them (said), ‘Oh, we don’t have Prime or we can’t stream it because we don’t have Prime,'” he told SconnieBar on Thursday.
When it comes to all Thursday Night Football games only on Prime video this season, “I kind of feel like the NFL sold out with it,” Mueller said.
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Not all of the Packers fans at the bar that night thought it was a full fumble.
“Thursday Night Football kind of became something that got pretty shot down so there weren’t a lot of contenders, so I totally understand how Amazon Prime got that,” Peter Murphy said.
“Streaming is going to be the thing of the future,” he said, “it has to improve its quality a bit, but as the internet world progresses, it’s going to improve.”
That can be a problem when in more than 180,000 Wisconsin homes and businesses, the internet world still hasn’t started, according to Alyssa Kenney of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
“We have our foot on the accelerator, but broadband infrastructure and good high-performance broadband infrastructure take time,” she said.
Kenney, director of broadband and digital equity at the PSC, said that with public funds over the past two years, the PSC has connected more than 100,000 new sites.
In October, Governor Tony Evers allocated $40 million in US federal funds under the US Bailout Act through the Capital Projects Fund for Broadband Expansion.
“We really want everyone in Wisconsin to be able to watch the Packers, that’s a top priority. But you know, likewise, accessing appointments with your doctor, your kids being in school being able to access the resources they need to be successful,” Kenney said.”[Internet is] just part of the access to society now and the people who don’t have it are really, they’re being left behind.
According to Kenney, between $700 million and $1 billion in federal dollars could also flow once the government approves broadband funds from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“We will be able to pull planning funds and that will allow us to engage more closely with local communities, to create any data or systems that we need, so we are really ready when the additional income, the additional funds come down, she says.
But the government figuring out which places aren’t served by broadband can complicate matters, Kenney said.
“The state has a definition of unserved and the federal government has a definition of unserved, and they don’t really get along,” she explained.
Wisconsin would receive the full $5 million planning fund, for a nine-month process.
Then comes the next phase.
“So there’s the pre-engineering and the design, there’s the pre-ordering of the materials, there’s the labor that takes, for many projects there’s the license to work with the local communities to make sure you have the permits, whether it’s a right of way or opening up any type of land and street to public access,” Kenney said.
Then building is another challenging game.
“Most of the infrastructure in the state of Wisconsin is buried plants. So it’s underground and it’s boring, and so there’s also a limited building season in our state because the ground freezes for a while,” she said.
So, as the funds are announced to the public, “it’s hard when people see the funding coming out, I think they want broadband tomorrow and really, it’s broadband in 1-2 years”, Kenney said.
Even for some who have internet, affordability can be a barrier, which is why a Federal Affordability Program is available to claim a $30 reduction on your bill.
In the meantime, fans will just have to scour the grounds for bars, friends, or any other Cheeseheads with Prime memberships on Thursdays. “
True fans will find a way to watch it,” Murphy’s friend Guy Kopp said.
For those who have the internet, but don’t know how to get Amazon Prime, “local libraries are just an amazing resource for walk-in help with digital literacy classes,” Kenney said. “Hopefully as we plan, we can plan for those adoptions, that digital literacy, those other things that people really need to take full advantage of technology.”
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