Included in the budget bill that passed the Joint Finance Committee last Friday were several provisions affecting WiscNet, a non-profit association of more than 450 schools, libraries and units of government providing high-speed internet services to the state’s education and research communities.
The legislation (numbers 23-26 of the UW System omnibus motion) would require UW-Extension to return more than $32 million in federal money to develop high-speed internet networks in four regions of the state — Platteville, Superior, Wausau and the Chippewa Valley. UW-Madison must also decline $5.1 million in federal stimulus funds that would have improved network infrastructure around campus.
The bill specifically forbids the university from “becoming or remaining a member, shareholder, or partner in or with any company, corporation, non-profit association, joint venture, cooperative, partnership, consortium, or any other individual or entity that offers, resells, or provides telecommunications services or information technology services to members of the general public, or to any private entity, or to any public entity other than the Board, the UW System, any UW institution, or the UW-Extension.”
The bill also specifies that WiscNet can no longer be housed on campus and removes 2012-13 funding for WiscNet, effectively disbanding WiscNet on July 1, 2012, forcing its member organizations to purchase network services at a much higher cost.
WiscNet’s mission statement notes that “it is championing the Wisconsin Idea by advancing high-performance networks and services that extend member resources throughout the state and beyond.” PROFS believes that this legislation severely hampers the Wisconsin Idea and strongly encourages the legislature to remove this provision from the budget bill.