The Biden administration is investing $1 billion to expand high-speed service in Wisconsin. The work could be getting done faster, but Republicans dropped the state’s funding commitment to $0.
A Wisconsin factory will be the first in the country to make products that help extend high-speed internet to underserved areas, under a new federal program investing $1 billion into the state. Vice President Kamala Harris promoted the plans—and announced the creation of 200 jobs—during a visit Thursday to Pleasant Prairie.
Starting next year, Finland-based Nokia will partner with California-based Sanmina Corporation’s factory to produce components known as optical line termination cards and optical network terminals. These products are used in fiber optic networks that use thin strands of glass to transmit data. Nokia says its products now power 70% of the fiber broadband lines in North America.
During a tour of the factory, Harris touted the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which sharply boosted the nation’s investment in broadband expansion and in jobs ranging from high-tech research to manufacturing and construction. The $1 billion in funding for Wisconsin to build out broadband is among the most crucial investments made possible by the infrastructure law.
“President Biden and I are delivering on our promise to strengthen our economy by investing in working people, expanding domestic manufacturing, empowering small business owners, and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. Today’s announcement is a direct result of this work,” Harris said. “Our investments in broadband infrastructure are creating jobs in Wisconsin and across the nation, and increasing access to reliable, high-speed internet so everyone in America has the tools they need to thrive in the 21st century.”
Nokia said it is the first company to announce the making of fiber-optic network products in the US as part of the government’s new Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.
“President Biden and I required that materials and products used in these [BEAD] projects—from steel to electronics to fiber optic cables—must be made in America, by workers in America,” Harris said. “They will build the parts that are needed to connect people with high-speed internet.”
“Many Americans still lack adequate connectivity, leaving them at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing work, education and healthcare,” said Pekka Lundmark, Nokia president and CEO. “Programs like BEAD can change this. By bringing the manufacturing of our fiber-optic broadband access products to the US, BEAD participants will be able to work with us to bridge the digital divide. We look forward to bringing more Americans online.”
While Wisconsin will receive more than $1 billion to expand broadband throughout the state thanks to the infrastructure law, the state could have had even more money to invest in the effort, if not for state Republicans who control the Legislature. Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal would have included another $750 million to accelerate the state’s effort to connect every home and business to high-speed internet. GOP lawmakers removed Evers’ entire broadband funding request from the final bill. (Wisconsin’s congressional Republicans also all voted against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.)
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