On Aug. 31, the Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council officially adopted the Wyoming Broadband Plan as its guiding document in efforts to expand and improve broadband access across the state.
The plan is part of the 2018 Wyoming Legislature’s $10 million allocation for expanding and enhancing broadband connectivity in the state.
It outlines five key missions:
1. Develop a mapping strategy
Although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) collects data on connectivity, its data is not detailed enough to provide an accurate picture of coverage in the state, explained Russ Elliott, the State Broadband Manager for the Wyoming Business Council. Some areas, homes and businesses considered “served” by FCC data still experience inadequate speeds.
The Business Council will work with a mapping contractor to collect and display data to provide a more detailed and accurate look at coverage and speeds throughout the state. The tool would be used to assess the state’s broadband needs and the areas to which grant funding should be directed.
2. Leverage public-private partnerships
“Public-private partnerships are the best way to accomplish our mutual goals,” Elliott said.
The plan lays out the need to facilitate partnerships between providers and localities to reduce costs, improve efficiency, standardize regulations and resolve other issues to improving coverage.
These partnerships would help connect roads, emergency facilities and anchor institutions, like schools.
3. Remove barriers to deployment
The plan describes the importance of convening government, broadband providers and other partners to more easily build out infrastructure, ease right-of-way issues, improve permitting and otherwise remove inefficiencies.
4. Increase access to funding
Smaller communities often lack the staffing power needed to adequately seek and apply for the funding needed to improve their coverage, Elliott said.
The plan describes the need for the Wyoming Business Council and the Broadband Advisory Council to work with carriers and stakeholders to identify and announce funding availability, as well as provide training to potential applicants and evaluate the need for a statewide grant writer.
5. Integrate emerging technologies
Technology is constantly changing and improving, Elliott said, and the state needs to keep an eye on innovations that could improve broadband coverage.
Additionally, the state should position itself as a key test market for new technology vendors. The Business Council and Advisory Council should recruit innovators to the state for tours and consider developing incentives and/or competitions to attract them here.
Along with collecting the mapping data, the next step is to create a one-stop-shop web presence for all things broadband, Elliott said. Ideally, it will have everything a broadband stakeholder in Wyoming would need to understand the technology and terminology, as well as promote recent successes and projects.
“This plan represents a lot of time, energy and compromise made by the Broadband Advisory Council,” Elliott said. “I am extremely grateful to everyone who contributed their time and expertise to its creation.”
Barbara Sessions, the vice president/COO of Silver Star Communications said the creation of the broadband enhancement plan was an exciting and challenging task.
“It brought together a group of individuals from a variety of industries around the state,” she said. “Despite the diverse backgrounds and the competing interests of the council members, we were able to work together as a team focused on one vision, which was to create a plan to benefit all businesses and residents in Wyoming.”
Brett Riley, the CEO of Flood Marketing in Sheridan, said fast broadband is "absolutely critical" to the success of his business.