Charter Communications said it plans to invest $668 million in a plan to expand broadband internet offerings to 143,000 homes and businesses in Wisconsin.

Nearly 14,000 homes and businesses in one Northeastern Wisconsin county could gain access to broadband internet service through the company's plan to expand service to rural areas.

The company provided two examples of how local communities would be impacted. In Marinette County, 13,978 homes and businesses would gain access. In Forest County, the number would be 5,736.

Of the $668 million, Charter is spending $500,000 and the rest is coming from the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity auction.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for broadband availability,” Tom Rutledge, chairman and CEO of Charter Communications, said in a news release. “As Americans across the country increasingly rely on broadband to work, learn, access healthcare and stay in touch with family and loved ones, bringing broadband access to more unserved areas should be a priority for all stakeholders."

Access to high-speed internet in rural areas has been a concern in recent years. The WMC Foundation, an arm of the state business lobby, identified it as a key challenge to expanding geographic opportunity across Wisconsin.

The new network will offer mostly rural customers 1Gbps high-speed broadband access, with starting speeds of 200 Mbps, enabling them to engage in remote learning, work, telemedicine and other online activities that require highbandwidth, low-latency connectivity.

Charter says the timeline of the project depends on governments and utilities granting access to utility poles.