WAUSAU — Though reliable internet access is increasingly vital to a thriving society, state figures show that less than half of rural residents in central and northern Wisconsin have access to high speed internet.

At 10 a.m., today, Aug. 8, Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Route 51” host Shereen Siewert welcomes Steve Bauder, director of engineering for the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board; Phil Hejtmanek, who served on the Joint Committee on Rural Broadband; and Stacey Johnson, executive director of the Oneida County Economic Development Corp. to discuss ongoing efforts to improve broadband access in our area, especially in rural areas.

Johnson and Hejtmanek will describe Oneida County’s efforts to build towers to expand high-speed internet that will serve about 90 percent of county residents and discuss the impact those efforts have had on local businesses and individuals. Bauder will talk about the ways in which communities can use improved broadband access to promote economic development.

“Route 51” airs at 10 a.m. on Thursdays on The Ideas Network stations 101.3 & 91.9/Wausau, AM 930/Auburndale-Stevens Point, 99.1/Stevens Point, 100.9/Marshfield, 90.3/Park Falls, 89.1/Adams-Wisconsin Rapids, and 89.9/Rhinelander-Eagle River. It is re-broadcast Fridays at 7 p.m. on 90.9/Wausau. Program archives are available at wpr.org/route51.