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Lincoln Co. hopes to put aside frustration, see rural broadband project completedSubmitted: 05/24/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Lincoln Co. hopes to put aside frustration, see rural broadband project completed
MERRILL - Three years ago, Lincoln County got good news.

The federal government planned to spend $1.5 million to help give rural parts of the county broadband internet access. It was part of Frontier Communications' agreement to accept $283 million for broadband expansion nationwide.

But then, the contractors, equipment, and better internet were slow to arrive.

Now, Frontier is finally at work, but plenty of people are still waiting anxiously for their high-speed connection.


Jeremy Ratliff is one of the people waiting for a better connection. He lives in the rural town of Pine River.

"We do have internet service, if you want to call it that," Ratliff said. "It's almost like 20 years ago having dial-up speed. We deal with it, because it's the only internet option out there."

In addition to his day job, Ratliff serves on the Lincoln County Board and the Merrill School Board. He was excited when, in 2015, Frontier took the federal money as part of the Connect America Fund II initiative. But he was among the people in Lincoln County soon confused and frustrated.

"[In 2016, Frontier] made a promise to the county board that they were going to have plows in the ground by the following spring. That didn't happen," Ratliff said. "Leaving the county and the county board to basically scratch their heads like, 'Okay, what's going on? What's next?'"

"We decided at that time [Frontier's plan] seemed like a good deal," said Hans Breitenmoser Jr., a longtime member of the county board. "Now, of course, we're waiting for things to get done."

Frontier wouldn't even return calls or emails from the county last year, according to Randy Scholz, the administrative coordinator for Lincoln County at the time.

Finally, this spring, Ratliff noticed broadband crews on roads near Merrill. Frontier told him it actually completed work in the Tomahawk area last year and planned to connect 2,400 more rural customers this year.

Now, Ratliff is trying to be confident it will actually happen.

"We can hope that they are going to follow through on this. They say they're going to do it," he said. "It looks like work is being done."

Frontier has until the end of 2020 to complete its broadband expansion plan in Lincoln County. It got federal money to do work in 46 different Wisconsin counties.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

WISCONSIN DELLS, WIS. (AP) - Three Illinois men are dead after their sport utility vehicle collided with a pickup near Wisconsin Dells.

Columbia County sheriff's authorities say the men were in a Toyota 4Runner that collided with a Chevrolet Silverado at an intersection on State Highway 127 on Saturday.

Authorities say the Toyota SUV apparently failed to yield the right of way at a stop sign. The three men died at the scene. Authorities say they apparently were not wearing seat belts.

The 33-year-old woman who was driving the pickup was flown to UW Hospital. Her passenger, a 33-year-old man, was taken to another hospital.

Names and hometowns of the victims were not released.

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MADISON, WIS. (AP) - Madison officials say Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents violated city policy by detaining at least six immigrants without letting police know ahead of time.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval says the department has a working relationship with ICE, but the federal agency did not follow protocol. Koval says ICE has agreed to call the assistant police chief before making arrests in Madison. This time the agency called the Dane County Communications Center.

Koval says the arrests were made at separate workplaces and are not considered to be part of a raid. He says the community is in "hyper-warp distress mode."

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin says ICE told city officials the people arrested are believed to have committed serious crimes, but he does not know the specifics of the investigation.

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ANTIGO - People don't need to travel all over the world for international food. 

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THREE LAKES - After 30 years, Dr. George Karling decided it's time to retire as the Three Lakes District Administrator.

He plans to leave after the school year ends, but the school board is already preparing to find his replacement.

Early next month, the Three Lakes School District will host two input sessions for the public.

Three Lakes residents can go to give their opinions on what they want in a replacement. 

Karling's decision to retire comes about a month after he faced criticism for allowing the district to be featured in a campaign ad for Gov. Scott Walker. 

People who can't make it can still send their thoughts to the Three Lakes Board of Education. People can submit comments by writing to:

Board of Education, Three Lakes School District
6930 West School St. 
Three Lakes, WI 54562 

or email: tr@threelakessd.k12.us.



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MIDDLETON -

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RHINELANDER - A house fire in Rhinelander left one man dead Friday.

Emergency responders got the call around 7:30 p.m. for a home near Hodag Park.

Steve Smith heard a dispatch call over his step-sons radio about the fire at his neighbor's home on Rose Street.

"We walked out the front door and it was plain as day," said Smith. "The flames were rolling out of the front window."

At first, Smith wasn't sure if anyone was in the home. "There was a man they brought out," said Smith. "unfortunately, I heard he was deceased,"

Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier confirmed the victim was found dead on the scene.

"Life saving measures were done by the paramedics. Unfortunately, the male had passed away," said Gauthier. "At this point, it appears that it was due to something left on the stove."

Gauthier says more details about the victim will be released on Monday. 

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