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USDA Grant Means Better Broadband Connection For Southwest Wyoming

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Wyoming is known for its rurality. Unfortunately, this rurality means that much of Wyoming is underserved for internet connectivity. But All West Communications has received a grant from the USDA's ReConnect Program to try to fix that.

This grant will be used to build broadband infrastructure in Farson, Eden, and Granger in Southwest Wyoming. This infrastructure will bring high speed internet to three Farson public schools, the fire station, 18 farms and ranches, 20 businesses, and 312 households, ultimately affecting around 800 residents.

"What's really critical to this is that they are bringing opportunity to areas that without this wouldn't be able to provide the quality education, the quality health care that's needed in rural communities, the public safety measures that are necessary to respond to emergencies," Chad Rupe, USDA Administrator for Rural Utilities Service, said. "And then they offer opportunity for the farmers and ranchers and the business folks to open up markets and increase their profitability and gain efficiencies."

Credit Wyoming Business Council

The areas where the infrastructure is being built are considered underserved for internet, which means that if they have access to internet, their download speed is less than 10 Mbps, and their upload speed is less than one Mbps. These speeds can only support a small business of five people or less.

"The Secretary [for Rural Development] views this build out that we're doing as similar to the rural electrification act and rural telephone act from the 1930s and 1940s. This build out is critical for these rural areas," Matt Weller, the president of All West, said.

Building better internet can help draw in larger businesses, which supports local economy Rupe said.

"We've got to diversify our economy, and without this infrastructure we're limited in what we can do. Broadband, just because someone has it doesn't necessarily mean that somebody's going to come to that area to create jobs," Rupe said. "But you're pretty much guaranteed that if you don't have that broadband infrastructure in place, you're not going to get the jobs. You're not going to attract any businesses to the area."

This project was approved during the first round of funding for the ReConnect Program. Applicationsfor the second round will open early next year. Awardees are announced on a rolling basis.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Ivy Engel, at iengel@uwyo.edu.

Ivy started as a science news intern in the summer of 2019 and has been hooked on broadcast ever since. Her internship was supported by the Wyoming EPSCoR Summer Science Journalism Internship program. In the spring of 2020, she virtually graduated from the University of Wyoming with a B.S. in biology with minors in journalism and business. When she’s not writing for WPR, she enjoys baking, reading, playing with her dog, and caring for her many plants.
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