Broadband is Part of Wyoming's Strategy to Survive, Drive, and Thrive
Friday, February 24, 2023
Broadband is Part of Wyoming's Strategy to Survive, Drive, and Thrive
You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a recap of the biggest (or most overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The digest is delivered via e-mail each Friday.
Round-Up for the Week of February 20-24, 2023
In his State of the State Address to the 65th Wyoming Legislature on January 9, 2019—just two days after he was sworn in as Wyoming’s 33rd governor—Mark Gordon (R-WY) outlined his top priorities: fiscal discipline, economic development, and improving Wyoming people’s quality of life. “I support the ongoing effort to improve access to broadband internet coverage throughout the state," he said. "This has been an appropriate partnership between government and private industry. Not only does broadband give our students a tool to compete with the rest of the world, it is necessary for healthcare delivery—especially in rural areas where other specialized doctors are not available."
As a result of a 2018 law, the state's broadband efforts are administered by the Wyoming Business Council, the state's economic development agency. Created in 1998, the council is a team led by a board of directors consisting of 13 business leaders from across the state. Governor Mark Gordon serves as co-chair of the board. The law also appropriated $10 million to establish the Broadband Infrastructure Grant Fund.
The Broadband Advisory Council works to expand broadband opportunities to unserved and underserved areas of the state. Members provide advice and make recommendations to the Wyoming Business Council, inventory current broadband availability, develop best practices for efficiently expanding broadband services, and ensure state and local policies are conducive to the development of broadband services. The council includes 11 members from different backgrounds and different areas throughout the state plus the State of Wyoming’s Chief Information Officer.
The Digital Divide in Wyoming
Wyoming currently ranks 43rd among states in BroadbandNow’s annual rankings of internet coverage, speed and availability. Nearly 85% of Wyoming residents have access internet service with speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. With 78.7% of people having access to 100 Mbps broadband, Wyoming ranked 47th among all states. Less than 17% of Wyoming residents have access to fiber-based broadband networks. Only 57% of Wyomingites can purchase broadband at a price of $60/month or less (excluding promotions and government programs).
During the COVID pandemic, Marzano Research estimated that 11% of the 115,407 individuals age 5–19 (approximately 12,581 students) didn't have broadband Internet at home. Although 68.4% of nonrural districts in Wyoming had high levels of broadband Internet connectivity, only 30% of the 30 rural districts in Wyoming had high levels of connectivity, and many had low or very low levels.
The Broadband Enhancement Plan
In September 2018, the Wyoming Business Council approved the Broadband Enhancement Plan. The plan sets three guide stars for Wyoming's broadband efforts:
The Vision: Every Wyoming citizen and every business corridor has access to broadband capabilities that exceed defined standards by 2023.
The Mission: Ensure every Wyoming citizen and business has access to affordable, reliable, redundant and future-proof broadband.
The Moonshot: Wyoming will set the standard in broadband capabilities for all others to follow by 2025.
The plan called for mapping the availability of broadband infrastructure in the state, leveraging public-private partnerships, removing barriers to deployment (including improving permitting), increasing access to funding, and leveraging both wired and wireless technologies.
Wyoming's Strategy to Survive, Drive, and Thrive
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gordon began planning for the state's recovery. He realized that there were immediate actions the government needed to take immediately to stop the negative impacts of the health crisis—and he understood the state had an opportunity to address long-term problems with strategic use of federal recovery funds. Proposals for the Future identified three phases—Survive, Drive, and Thrive—to recovery.
In the Survive phase, several immediate problems were identified that will be addressed with federal CARES Act dollars. These include funding to address increased needs for mental health and substance abuse services; tax relief for businesses; identifying underserved areas needing improved broadband connectivity; expanding camping at Wyoming State Parks to address overcrowding; and increasing employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry through the Energy Rebound program. Two hundred thousand dollars was set aside for broadband mapping and expanding access to broadband.
The Drive phase was meant to further define key problems impeding the state's growth in the future. In this phase, the state set the goal to use federal funds for Connect Wyoming, a program administered by the Wyoming Business Council to improve access to and meet the increased need for reliable, high-speed internet service. In September 2022, the council approved rules for Connect Wyoming, a competitive grant program designed to fund last mile broadband infrastructure projects in areas throughout the state that currently lack access to internet at speeds of 100/20 Mbps to facilitate access to work, education, and health monitoring.
On February 21, 2023, the U.S. Department of the Treasury approved Wyoming's plan to use Capital Projects Fund support for broadband infrastructure. The award—$70.5 million—will fund the Connect Wyoming grant program. Wyoming estimates that the award will help connect an estimated 11,700 households and businesses to high-speed internet access, about 20% of the locations in the state still lacking access to the internet at speeds of 100/20 Mbps.
The award is 64% of Wyoming's total Capital Projects Fund allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. Wyoming submitted plans for the remainder of its funds and these applications are currently under review by Treasury.
In December 2022, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded Wyoming grants to plan for the deployment and adoption of affordable, equitable, and reliable high-speed Internet service throughout the state. Through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Wyoming received $4,899,999 for:
- Identifying unserved and underserved locations;
- Developing a 5-year action plan;
- Increasing capacity of the state broadband office;
- Asset mapping to catalog Wyoming high-speed Internet service adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment;
- Conducting surveys of unserved, underserved and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to high-speed Internet service adoption.
Through the IIJA's Digital Equity Act, Wyoming received $530,006 for:
- Development of a Wyoming Digital Equity Plan;
- Engagement with community and stakeholders;
- Collection and analysis of data;
- Recruitment of consultants.
- FCC March 2023 Open Meeting Agenda
- The digital divide: Rural vs. urban (RCR Wireless)
- A look at the Affordable Connectivity Program’s inaugural year through interactive dashboards (University of Southern California)
- After defending false data, Comcast admits another FCC broadband map mistake (Ars Technica)
- House Commerce Committee GOP Chairs Lay Out Expectations for Biden Agency Cooperation
Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)
- Reducing Digital Discrimination and Stressors by Improving Broadband Adoption in Historically Redlined Areas (Journal of Science Policy & Governance)
- Report on the Effectiveness of the Broadband Interagency Coordination Agreement (FCC)
- Public Knowledge Urges FCC to Swiftly and Forcefully Address Digital Discrimination (Public Knowledge)
- Supreme Court Seems Wary of Limiting Protections for Social Media Platforms (NYTimes)
- The CHIPS Act and a Long-term Vision for America’s Technological Leadership (Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo)
ICYMI from Benton
- Robust, Resilient, Broadband Infrastructure for Arizona
- More State Profiles
- The Digital Skill Divide
Feb 27—FCC Tribal Workshop
Feb 28—Broadband Technical Assistance Listening Session for Technical Assistance Providers (USDA)
Mar 1—Promoting U.S. Innovation and Individual Liberty through a National Standard for Data Privacy (House Commerce Committee)
Mar 1—Public Meeting on Broadband Funding (Delaware Department of Technology and Information)
Mar 2—Public Meeting on Broadband Funding (Delaware Department of Technology and Information)
Mar 6—State of the Net 2023 (Internet Education Foundation)
Mar 6—Public Meeting on Broadband Funding (Delaware Department of Technology and Information)
Mar 13—California Digital Equity Summit (CENIC)
Mar 15—2023 State of Telecom Policy (Verizon)
Mar 16—March 2023 Open Federal Communications Commission Meeting (FCC)
Mar 28—America Connected (Total Telecom)
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.
© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2022. Redistribution of this email publication - both internally and externally - is encouraged if it includes this copyright statement.
For subscribe/unsubscribe info, please email headlinesATbentonDOTorg