Marathon County to Boost Public Library Wi-Fi Signal With CARES Act Funding

Written by Chad Dally

Marathon County officials and municipal officials within the county recently embarked on a plan to boost the strength of wireless internet available at all Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) locations.

Currently, Wi-Fi is left on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at all 8 MCPL branches, and is available from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the Wausau Headquarters, as well as from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Prior to a decision made by the MCPL Board in May 2019, the library turned off its Wi-Fi when the building was closed.

The change was made in an attempt to provide residents — especially those in rural areas who have poor internet service —  with access to wireless internet service from a parked car outside all 9 MCPL locations even when the buildings are closed. School and work needs for reliable broadband service didn’t always match up to library hours.

MCPL - Marathon
Free Wi-Fi access is available from a parked car outside all 9 MCPL locations, even when the building is closed. (Photo courtesy of MCPL.)

With limited access to the libraries and an increasing need for internet access due to the pandemic, Marathon County will now use federal funding to increase the strength of its Wi-Fi signals, which will result in faster download and upload speeds for patrons using their own devices outside the libraries. The funding originates from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law by President Donald Trump in March 2020.

The labor and equipment needed to boost Wi-Fi at MCPL locations are expected to cost less than $15,000, MCPL Director Ralph Illick said. The library’s Board of Trustees in October 2020 approved a motion to begin talks with officials in municipalities where MCPL shares building space, on logistics such as antenna placement. Illick added that MCPL is excited to continue, and improve upon, its role in helping patrons across the county access high-speed, reliable internet service, offering:

“We welcome the chance to be a part of the broadband infrastructure in the county where we’re able, and to work with municipalities to bolster that connectivity.”

Marathon County studies completed in 2010 and again in 2020 identified a dire need for faster broadband internet service throughout the county, and MCPL continues to find ways to do its part to provide reliable internet service outside of all its locations while operating under limited access.

For additional information on broadband planning in Marathon County, please visit the County’s Planning for High-Speed Internet webpage or contact Melinda Osterberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison Marathon County Community Development Educator at or 715-261-1240.


Computer use inside each MCPL location is available via appointment. The Wausau Headquarters location offers appointments for computer use up to 1 hour per person per day. Patrons visiting one of the 8 branch locations can make an appointment for 30 minutes per person per week, which can be used either for computer use or for browsing for materials. Printing from one of our computers is still available as well, unless you have a way to power up a printer inside your vehicle (which would be pretty cool.)

Computer at MCPL
All 9 MCPL locations offer public computer stations with Internet access and productivity software. (Photo courtesy of MCPL.)

To make an appointment, call your local branch for availability. Appointments at Wausau and the branches can be made the same day or up to 1 week in advance. Visit MCPL’s computer reservation information page for a list of hours appointments will be available, information on COVID safety protocols for those entering the library, and more.

Part of the library’s mission is to connect our patrons with information and technology. Whether that’s inside or outside, on your own or with our help, we’re doing all that we can to continue with that mission during these unprecedented times. As always, please contact us if you have any questions and we’ll be happy to help!

Chad Dally - MCPL - Library SpecialistChad Dally
Library Specialist  |  Marathon County Public Library

Chad Dally is a library specialist with the Marathon County Public Library, where he’s worked since 2012. He splits his time at the library between reference and programming, and generally prefers to read nonfiction over fiction.  Email Chad Dally

Wi-fi image by OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay.

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