Digital Divide Is Focus Of State Council

Jun 21, 2018

Screen shot from the FCC's Broadband Map showing access to high speed internet across the region.

The Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council meets for the first time next week. The Wyoming Legislature created the council during the 2018 session as a part of an effort to increase access to high-speed internet in unserved areas of the state.

The 11 members selected by the Wyoming Business Council will study where services are lacking and shape a plan for expansion. They range from city officials to industry executives to educators and span the state geographically from Torrington to the Wind River Reservation.

The legislature also appropriated $10 million to fund partnerships between private entities and municipalities to build broadband infrastructure in communities where it doesn’t currently exist. The money will be distributed with guidance from the advisory council.

Colin McKee, a policy advisor for Governor Matt Mead, is helping to get this project off the ground.

“A lot of these areas that the funding will go to may not be economic for internet service companies to go build that infrastructure,” said McKee. “And you can’t necessarily ask a private business to build infrastructure if it’s not going to make them money.”

McKee said private companies aren’t likely to invest in infrastructure in areas where they won’t see a profitable return. That’s why many of Wyoming’s rural and remote communities don’t get served.

“So you know the state needs to step in with some funding, if this is priority, which obviously it is. They passed the bill [and] passed program,” said McKee.

The council meets for the first time June 26 and 27 in Riverton. It’s open to all and the council will be hearing public comments. It will be live-streamed via the Wyoming Business Council’s Facebook page.