FCC Chairman focused on increasing connectivity in Wyoming

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -- From the ranches of Wyoming to the State Capitol, Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai continued his tour around the Cowboy State. The Chairman hopes to connect more of Wyoming through broadband.

“We really appreciate getting your insight on some of the issues that are really important to us, namely, closing that digital divide,” Chairman Pai said to a room full of people affected by broadband and the rural nature of Wyoming.

Governor Mark Gordon invited other state officials to come to the table to discuss the need for more broadband in Wyoming. “To me the biggest initiative is the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. It’s going to be a $20 billion fund. It’s the biggest initiative the FCC has ever tackled to close that digital divide, “Chairman Paid said. He said the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will target people who don’t have any broadband access before moving on to those who have limited access. He said, “I’ve had the opportunity to see some of these communities that are very sparsely populated. It might be mountainous, the weather might be horrible, it’s just really hard to bring broadband there. The FCC wants to make sure that those communities aren’t left out of the digital revolution.”

Beyond uses in farming and ranching, hospitals and medical workers are hoping to use broadband for things like telehealth. Chairman Pai said it’s hard for rural hospitals to find doctors that want to be in a rural area. He said that leaves people with no care or driving for hours to get the care they need. “That’s not good enough to me,” said Chairman Pai. “We want to leverage the power of technology to help people live healthier, longer lives.” He said there is already a rural healthcare program that helps with connecting those hospitals and the FCC is looking at another pilot program to improve telehealth in the future.

Chairman Pai said one initiative he said the FCC is currently working on is making the unused signal in-between television stations, the white space, available for companies to develop. He said it will work essentially as wifi. He said the FCC has been working with broadcasters to make sure there won’t be interference with the channels already existing.

“We’re hopeful that this is a way to thread the needle,” he said. “This will allow broadcasters to do what they do best and report all of the local news, but also allow some of those white space innovators to get broadband to some of these harder to serve rural communities. It’s not easy getting a win-win, but we think we’ve got one in this case.”

The FCC will be voting on the white space proposal later this month.