Council voices support for Gov. Mead’s unified network plan

SHERIDAN — Sheridan City Council voted Monday to approve a resolution supporting a proposal by Gov. Matt Mead that asks for funding from the 2014 Wyoming Legislature to build a unified network.

The network would provide substantial high speed broadband Internet access to state offices, schools and private businesses around the state.

The proposal will be presented to the Legislature by the Department of Enterprise Technology Services as part of the fiscal year 2015-2016 biennium budget request. It will request a one-time funding amount of $16 million.

“Gov. Mead is wanting to leverage the state’s buying power,” City Councilman Alex Lee said. “The State of Wyoming is the biggest consumer of bandwidth in the state.

They are the number one customer,” Lee added. “He’s wanting to leverage that buying power to drive telecommunication companies or bandwidth providers to put facilities in the ground or overhead to the state offices and the education facilities within the state of Wyoming.”

Phase 1 of the unified network began July 1 as the state began to negotiate leases on Internet “fiber” with multiple service providers around the state. Phase 1 is expected to be complete Feb. 28, 2014.

Phase 2, which will involve the state purchasing two to three 100-gigabyte fiber “rings” in key areas of the state and connecting the rings through lines between “hub” locations around the state, is slated to begin upon legislative approval and be completed by Aug. 30, 2015.

Sheridan is slated to be a hub location for the unified network.

The essential concept is increasing supply of bandwidth to increase demand and drive down Internet costs.

“The state has a need and they’re hoping to leverage that need to push bandwidth out to the communities,” Lee said. “Say you have a state office at the end of a road that normally wouldn’t get fiber down that road but because state is saying I need a gig, the communications provider has to put fiber in the ground and go. The communications provider will leverage that build to put as many people on that fiber as they can so that they drive more business to themselves.”

By utilizing a new technology known as dense wave digital multiplier networks that will allow one strand of Internet fiber optics to carry 40 different wavelengths, the state’s current “straw” of bandwidth provided by private Internet companies will be able to become a 68-inch pipe that will deliver powerful bandwidth capabilities around the state, Lee said.

Increasing the state’s Internet bandwidth will enable technology companies to set up and thrive in Wyoming, driving further infrastructure improvements and economic development, Lee said.

“When the governor speaks and asks for our help, we’re jumping right into the parade,” Mayor Dave Kinskey said about City Council’s support of the unified network.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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