CHEYENNE – Three companies will receive $12.1 million from the Federal Communications Commission to expand broadband to rural parts of Wyoming over the next decade, the FCC announced in a news release Thursday.
More than 4,700 Wyoming homes and businesses that lack high-speed internet access will gain broadband support through the funds.
The FCC funding will go to three companies – Inventive Wireless of Nebraska, Tri County Telephone and Union Telephone – to provide service in seven counties: Albany, Big Horn, Niobrara, Park, Platte, Sublette and Uinta.
“It’s critical that rural Wyomingites have the same access to digital opportunity that their urban counterparts do,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a prepared statement Thursday. “I’m pleased that today’s funding will support broadband to more than 4,700 unserved rural homes and businesses in the state.”
State Broadband Manager Russ Elliott said the authorized funds are a great start to address connectivity issues.
“It’s a positive movement for the state, and it really does start to focus energy on those areas that otherwise nobody is interested in,” Elliott said. “You look at rural Niobrara county, for example, this money will help reach many of those who otherwise might never get service.”
The announcement marked the official authorization of FCC awards announced last year to allocate nearly $1.5 billion nationwide to support more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses over the next 10 years.
In a survey by the Wyoming State Broadband Program of more than 2,400 residents in targeted rural areas, 26.9% of respondents said they lacked reliable broadband access. The survey is voluntary and filled out by those living outside of high-population areas, Elliott said.
“It’s more of an initiative to outline those areas of concern in the rural parts of Wyoming. It is not a representation of the actual speed of the state,” Elliott said. “It starts to quantify the discussion. Too often we don’t quantity these discussions. What get’s measured gets done, and this is a way for us to start doing that.”
The announcement came as the Wyoming Rural Broadband Summit got underway Thursday morning in Casper. The one-day event brought together elected officials, stakeholder organizations, federal agencies and broadband providers to discuss ways to enhance rural broadband statewide.