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Northwoods Connect planning 12 new internet towers in 2019 to reach 95 percent coverage in Oneida CountySubmitted: 01/23/2019
Story By Lane Kimble

Northwoods Connect planning 12 new internet towers in 2019 to reach 95 percent coverage in Oneida County
RHINELANDER - A small internet provider sees the chance to cover up to 95 percent of Oneida County with high-speed service by the end of this year.  To do so, the company needs some landowners to step up.

Paul Osterman's Northwoods Connect currently has about 20 towers that can send broadband internet to homes up to five miles away.  Most are in Oneida County, covering about 60 percent of homes there.  There are around 700 total customers.  

The Rhinelander-based company recently got conditional use permit (CUP) approvals for towers near Bearskin Lake and Skunk Lake, but Osterman says he hasn't found land for towers in Woodruff, Lake Tomahawk, and south of Three Lakes.


"That's the American Dream, you want to keep expanding," Osterman said. "We would love to cover the whole state. Will it happen? I don't know, but it would certainly be amazing if we could do that."

Osterman pays landowners a small fee for using their property when he gets an agreement and also provides his highest speed service to them for free.

The company relies heavily on state grant funding to build its towers. It received more than $200,000 in the last couple of years to build more towers.  In addition to Oneida County's sites, Osterman has plans for new offerings in Florence and Forest counties.

Osterman plans to build about a dozen new internet towers around the Northwoods in 2019. He knows building that many towers in a year will be a challenge, but stories like helping an elderly couple in Minocqua finally get high-speed service a few years ago keep him going.

"They didn't get to see their grandchildren that often and they got to Facetime right there and they were both crying, it was a remarkable moment," Osterman said. "That's when I kind of was like, OK, we're doing something good here."

Osterman plans to apply for more grants when the state announces its next round of funding.


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