New internet service providers express interest in Platteville market

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — A Michigan internet service provider has announced plans to install a high-speed internet network in Platteville that would serve more than 4,000 homes and businesses.

The company, Astrea, is the first of several that city leaders have engaged over the past year in hopes of attracting new providers to spur competition with Platteville’s sole home market internet provider, which customers in the city have said is bogged by unstable connections and periodic outages.

“This is allowing options for residents to choose. The more options you have, that’s always good,” said City Manager Adam Ruechel. “When I started here in 2020, that was the No. 1 thing you heard from citizens and businesses in Platteville.”

Astrea already serves businesses in Platteville’s industrial park and operates in more than 65 rural communities in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Company officials could not be reached by telephone for comment Thursday, but in a press release, they reiterated their commitment to build a “reliable and robust” fiber network in the city with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.

“It is rare in a community of Platteville’s size that there isn’t a competitive option for internet services, and we are committed to do just that,” said Vice President Cory Heigl in the release.

It stated that Astrea is engineering the project and applying for necessary permits before construction crews begin installation in 2022.

Ruechel said that the company has not asked the city for incentives in its pursuit of the multi-million-dollar project, which he said would include the creation of a local customer service office.

The city also has engaged Dubuque-based Comelec Internet Services, which has expressed interest in renting space on a city tower from which to operate a wireless high-speed network. Sales representative Joseph Billmyer could not be reached for comment.

Platteville Common Council President Barb Daus said she is encouraged by the interest from providers to offer internet service in the city.

“That’s what we’re hopeful for, that people can have a choice,” she said. “At this point in time, there is no choice.”

CenturyLink for years has been the only option in the fiber optic residential and small-business market.

“You just pray that nothing goes wrong with your internet here,” said Hana Carl, who opened a Platteville dance studio, HD Academy, in 2018.

During the 2020 pandemic-related shutdowns, she taught classes remotely from her studio, but spotty service interfered with lessons. Carl hosts in-person classes now, but she still relies on internet for billing and to videoconference with the occasional quarantining student.

CenturyLink spokesperson Mark Molzen said in a statement that the broadband speeds the business offers in Platteville “are among the highest speeds that we provide to residential and business customers anywhere in Wisconsin.”

“We know that customers have choices and we will continue to work hard to meet their expectations and provide quality service,” he said.