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Funds continue to flow for Wyoming infrastructure improvements

Wyoming resident uses wifi
C. Jordan Uplinger
Wyoming has been mapping served and underserved areas as part of a broadband expansion project.

A continuing project by the federal government to modernize much of the United States' infrastructure has resulted in over $1 million in broadband expansion efforts and over $8 million in a grid resilience initiative.

Investments like this have become more common as the Biden administration works to spend over $300 billion across the country in modernization projects. $2.8 billion is being directed to Wyoming alone, investing in projects like a new nuclear plant, an energy transmission project and airport infrastructure. This latest round of spending was focused on two areas: upgrading Wyoming’s electrical grid and expanding broadband connectivity.

Grants for improvements in Wyoming’s electrical grid came from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the Grid Resilience State and Tribal Formula Grants program. Awarded to the Wyoming Energy Authority, the purpose of the funds is to improve weatherization as Patrick Millin, State Energy Program Manager explained.

“So it's [improving] resilience to wildfires, any kind of weather events that may disrupt our electric grid, so we don't lose any power for our customers in the state,” Millin said.

Such a task consists of finding contractors for the replacement of old infrastructure as well as upgrades to existing infrastructure. The Wyoming Energy Authority will remain in talks with the Department of Energy as they begin the search process. Additionally, funds will go toward an effort to mitigate electricity costs to rural customers in the state.

As for internet expansion, those funds were awarded by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). After applying for funding, Visionary Communications LLC was chosen as the developer for a middle mile project in Campbell County.

Middle mile refers to the infrastructure needed to bring internet connectivity to an area, but not the part of the process that directly connects households to the internet. It’s the bridge between the user and the systems needed to connect to the internet.

The project is just 11.5 miles but will spend roughly $1.2 million in the development of Oriva Hills, west of Gillette. Two new towers, improvements to an existing tower, and developments to increase the capacity for fiber in a rural area will create the infrastructure necessary for a later last mile project. Last mile refers to the process of connecting individual homes, businesses, and properties to new broadband infrastructure.

Corrected: October 2, 2023 at 3:58 PM MDT
"A previous version of this story used Patrick Millan. We have since corrected the error to the proper name, Patrick Millin."
Jordan Uplinger was born in NJ but has traveled since 2013 for academic study and work in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He gained experience in a multitude of areas, including general aviation, video editing, and political science. In 2021, Jordan's travels brought him to find work with the Wyoming Conservation Corps as a member of Americorps. After a season with WCC, Jordan continued his Americorps service with the local non-profit, Feeding Laramie Valley. His deep interest in the national discourse on class, identity, American politics and the state of material conditions globally has led him to his current internship with Wyoming Public Radio and NPR.
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