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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
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 08/17/2018

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:


We talk to area school district administrators about the problem they're facing with teacher shortages and how the schools are trying to work around those shortages.

We'll bring you the scene at Dunkin' Donuts in Rhinelander today where several police cars arrived and an officer even stood on the roof, not for an emergency, but for a good cause.

And we kick-off another season of Friday Night Blitz where we will bring you scores from high school games all across North Central Wisconsin as well as highlights from the following football games:

Prescott vs. Rhinelander

Wittenberg-Birnamwood vs. Northland Pines

Shiocton vs. Tomahawk

Deerfield vs. Three Lakes/Phelps

Belleville vs. White Lake/Elcho


That will be tonight on Friday Night Blitz at the end of Newswatch 12 at 10.

We'll bring you this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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THREE LAKES - The Three Lakes School Board stands by its district administrator after questions over a political ad.

Friday morning, the Three Lakes School Board issued a statement saying they feel it is the best interest of students to continue under the leadership of Dr. George Karling.

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MILWAUKEE - Heavy rains that flooded a section of Interstate 43 in the Milwaukee area left several motorists stranded.

The North Shore Fire Department responded to the scene Friday morning to help motorists, some of whom were sitting atop their flooded cars. Four people had to be rescued, and two others got out on their own.

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EAGLE RIVER - On Friday night, expect the line at the Eagle River ice arena to be out the door.

People in the area always look forward a tradition in its 56th year.

The Eagle River Recreation Association hosts a huge auction in mid-August.

"It keeps the lights on in this place. To run a rink is extremely expensive. We try to the best we can with what we have here to bring down those fees so hockey and skating becomes affordable for everybody up here," said ERRA President Patrick Schmidt.

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MADISON - Buildings destroyed by a natural gas explosion in Wisconsin will be removed at the end of the month.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the July 10 blast in Sun Prairie destroyed six businesses, one home and killed a volunteer firefighter. Many of the buildings damaged include apartments.

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RHINELANDER - An 18-year-old Rhinelander driver reached 100 miles per hour running from police Tuesday night, according to police.

Jason Hawley is charged with three felonies in the case.

A judge gave him a $25,000 cash bond in court on Thursday.

A police report says Hawley ran red lights at 80 to 100 miles per hour on the Highway 17 bypass around 9:30 p.m. He later went 100 to 120 miles per hour as he weaved through both lanes of traffic on Highway P. Hawley was stopped and arrested after passing Monico on Highway 8.

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RHINELANDER - Hardly anyone goes through life without knowing someone who is affected by cancer in some way.

Thursday evening people gathered to honor those impacted by cancer at the11th annual Celebration of Life in Rhinelander.

Organizers emphasized that cancer survivors can still live active and productive lives.

Becky Gauthier of Rhinelander gave the keynote speech.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2017.

She shared her story that's been driven by courage.

"If it's ever you, just have hope," Gauthier said. "Don't ever give up. Just know that miracles happen every day and even if they tell you bad news, it doesn't mean it's your future."

At the end of the ceremony organizers released butterflies as a symbol of hope. 

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