Wyoming Broadband Taskforce meets Monday

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 7:15 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The Wyoming Broadband Task Force had an interim meeting Monday to discuss connectivity and the future of Wyoming.

The federal money was given through the “Cares Act” last year helped upgrade broadband infrastructure in Wyoming. These funds went towards 81 projects state-wide, at the cost of 180 million dollars and were finished in three months.

With American Recovery Act Money, the committee is deciding the best way to invest the broadband money into Wyoming’s tech future.

“We do not have economic development in Wyoming if we do not have high speed broadband, and if your community doesn’t have it, if we don’t get that in your community, your community is going to be left behind,” said Rep. Albert Sommers, Chair- WY Broadband Taskforce

Last year, COVID-19 made it obvious there were holes in the state coverage. Even with the massive and speedy broadband undertaking in 2020, connectivity speed, especially in low-income, rural areas, continued to be a problem. Unfortunately, kids were some of the hardest hit.

“Wyoming has a really good system to provide access at schools, but at home is another story,” said Sommers

Rep Sommers says the federal dollars will provide school devices for kids to take home for homework use.

Yet broadband wasn’t the only thing lacking in some rural areas; cellular service and remote satellite coverage wasn’t enough to cover multiple-member household usage at one time. In addition, some cases required Wyomingites to pay extra for data to get functionality, which may not be accessible for many.

“We have to make sure that we just dont just provide high quality high speed internet, but we provide affordable high quality high speed internet,” said Sommers

Expanding broadband state-wide will mean investing and preparing for Wyoming’s future.

“We look at economic development as supporting communities, and supporting that move forward. Where as broadband is that one thing, that can actually drive that,” said Rya Kudera- manager of WY Business Council.

Rep Sommers emphasized building the infrastructure now is vital to support and attract tech, data storage, and blockchain technology industries to Wyoming.

‘We want you to put in this broadband, but we want it to be at a level that’s going to be for the future. We want to future-proof this,” said Sommers

Sommers wants to encourage the public to let the county commissioner, town council, the state broadband coordinator know if people are having issues with their broadband so they can map out the sectors of Wyoming that need more attention for access.

This committee’s goal is to eventually create and pass bills to the legislative committees and sessions. Then, they will also have until 2026 to spend the federal money.

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