Fed up with slow internet, Oneida County man to build broadband tower

January 18, 2017

Ben Meyer


HARSHAW - On his home computer, Phil Hejtmanek gets used to waiting patiently as webpages load, seeing spinning wheels as videos buffer, and putting work on pause as downloads slowly trickle in.

"Streaming a movie on Netflix is a pipe dream," Hejtmanek said with a laugh. "That's impossible."

Hejtmanek lives on West Horsehead Lake in the Oneida County town of Cassian. His best option for internet service is DSL provided by Frontier, a technology which is a distant memory for many people in cities.

His DSL often can't even keep up with basic online work or web browsing.

"This state has got some really, really broadband deprived areas," Hejtmanek said. "There are so many reasons why we need to expand broadband in Oneida County. There's no question about it."

Fed up, Hejtmanek decided to make the push for better internet. He decided he'd just fix the problem himself.

"A 180 foot tower is what I'm expecting to put up at the top of the hillside there," he said Tuesday, pointing to a rise near Bearskin Lake in Cassian.

Hejtmanek started his own LLC, which will build a tower. The tower will later be outfitted with broadband transmitters by a company called Northwoods Connect.

"Well, what the heck? Why not? Why not start a business?" Hejtmanek asked himself. "I'm really not trying to make money at this. I'm trying to put a tower up so we can get some internet around here."

The tower should go up in spring, and after Northwoods Connect does its work, homes within about four miles can get high-speed broadband access.

The money for the broadband equipment will come from an existing state grant.

Last week, Gov. Scott Walker proposed adding $35.5 million in grant funding for even more rural broadband expansion in Wisconsin.

"My mother was born and raised on a farm. For her parents' generation, electricity changed the way we farm in America," Walker said in his State of the State address. "Access to broadband is like that today in rural parts of our state."

If Walker's plan goes through, more and more people like Hejtmanek may soon be using high-speed broadband, and if broadband service from the first tower is popular, Hejtmanek plans to build more towers in rural Oneida County.

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