By Steve Sharp
TOWN OF WATERTOWN — A joint grant awarded in late 2018 by the Public Service Commission is now being used to bring improved internet access to some of the agricultural communities of Jefferson County, according to a globally experienced, veteran Information Technologies expert who grew up near Watertown.
Ken Baehler of Netwurx Internet, LLC, told the Daily Times things are moving right along as he and his colleagues pursue establishment of broadband, high-speed internet in the town of Watertown. They expect to have the project complete by October of 2020.
Town of Watertown Supervisor John Thoma and Baehler, director of business development, announced in recent days that the first step of the rollout process related to the Broadband Expansion Grant is already delivering broadband high-speed internet to parts of the town of Watertown.
“It’s exciting now that we are far enough along in the implementation process where we can begin to make a difference to people who are in an unserved or underserved area regarding broadband, high-speed internet,” Baehler said. “We have sent out mailers to those who can receive the service and we have information available on both the town of Watertown and Netwurx websites.”
Baehler said those who have not received a mailer should not be concerned.
“As we roll out the next steps throughout the project we’ll be sending mailers to those who will have access to the service,” he said. “Also, a few of the future steps will begin to affect the parts of the towns of Ixonia and Farmington and we are working on a way to contact those people as well.”
Baehler said in the lists he and his co-workers used — provided by the towns in completing the application — they had only names and addresses.
“We have no phone numbers,” he said. “This is why we are not calling people. However, persons who are looking for contact information, this is provided on the websites.”
Baehler also reminded those in the grant area to continue to pay attention to either the town of Watertown or Netwurx websites, where information on the progress of rolling out the grant is provided.
Baehler said Netwurx provides internet access to people and places that are unserved by traditional providers.
In a memorandum issued Oct. 8, 2018, a grant application submitted jointly by the Town of Watertown Rural Internet Grant Committee and Netwurx Internet, LLC, was awarded under the FY2019 Broadband Expansion Grants program. The PSC grant was in the amount of $150,690.
The main requirements on which applications are evaluated include:
— A determination that unserved or underserved broadband service areas exist.
— Determining if opportunities for public-private partnerships are available.
— Availability of matching funds.
— “Scalability,” which means having the ability to expand to other areas.
— A project’s potential impact in the community, as well as its possible economic impact.
“Netwurx is very excited that our joint grant with the town of Watertown was selected for funding,” Baehler said around the time the grant was awarded. “All those who volunteered and participated on the ToW Rural Internet Grant Committee are to be commended and should take pride in the result of their hard effort.”
Thoma confirmed the application submitted received high marks by the grant screening panel, placing in the top 10.
Thoma also said, “Netwurx took the needs of the community seriously throughout the process and we are looking forward to a collaborative public-private partnership with Netwurx.”