MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A judge has thrown out a lawsuit challenging a University of Wisconsin System effort to expand broadband capabilities in rural areas.

The system and others won a federal grant for the Building Community Capacity Through Broadband project. The goal is to fund fiber optic cables to provide broadband access for schools, hospitals and emergency services in Eau Claire, Chippewa, Douglas, Dunn, Grant, Marathon and Menominee counties.

Critics contend the efforts compete with the private sector. The Wisconsin Independent Telecommunications Systems, a company representing local telephone companies, filed a lawsuit in July contending state law prohibits such competition.

But Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson disagreed. He dismissed the lawsuit in a verbal ruling Friday.

Bill Williams, an attorney for WITS, declined to comment on the ruling.