SHERIDAN — BroadbandNow, a service that draws on data internet providers submit to the FCC to compare internet service providers in the city, concluded that average internet speeds in Sheridan are slower than national and state averages.
The average download speed in Sheridan, according to BroadbandNow, is roughly 21 megabits per second, which is slower than both the state and national average.
According to the FCC’s definition, the minimum download speed for a connection to qualify as broadband — or high speed — is 25 mbps.
Tyler Cooper, a content manager for BroadbandNow, said the slower speeds identified in the report are the result of a lack of competition.
Not every home or building in Sheridan has access to every service provider. Internet providers use existing infrastructure to connect customers to the internet — phone or cable lines, for instance — and residents’ options are limited by the infrastructure available at their home or office.
“Most houses are really only going to have two main options (CenturyLink and Charter Spectrum) and really between those two Spectrum is the only one with enough speed to satisfy a busy family that streams Netflix all of the time or has a home office,” Cooper said.
Cooper explained that because residential providers do not have as much competition in Sheridan as they do in other areas of the country, they do not allocate as much bandwidth to local connections as they would in more competitive regions. Businesses generally have more options than residents when it comes to internet service providers, though the speeds available to them may be limited by their location.
Jesus Rios, chief operating officer of Ptolemy Data Systems, said strong internet connections are available to businesses and residents in Sheridan, but not universally. For instance, Rios said Ptolemy has access to “virtually unlimited” broadband, but other locations in the city do not have the same options.
“I do think we have severe limitations in Sheridan when you consider some business locations and some residential areas,” Rios said. As Cooper indicated, Rios said the inconsistent coverage in the city is the result of the types of infrastructure available at different locations in the city. That is largely due to supply and demand.
Companies decide whether to extend infrastructure by weighing the return on investment an extended network would yield. Because Sheridan’s population is relatively small, especially compared to metropolitan areas, and expanded networks do not make financial sense in every part of the city.
“I think more than anything, the greater inhibitor for us is cost,” Rios said. “Our cost for broadband connectivity is so much greater in Sheridan than it is in other metro markets around the country, and probably greater to some extent than some other areas like Cheyenne where they have multiple carriers.”
Advanced Communications Technology — a local internet service provider geared toward businesses — General Manager Aaron Sopko painted a similar picture. He cautioned that the FCC data BroadbandNow relies on is often outdated and said ACT is capable of providing its customers with exceptionally fast connections.
“It is my belief, just based on what we see around the state and what we see here in Sheridan, frankly I believe the business sector of Sheridan has multiple options from multiple providers and speeds of up to a gigabit per second,” Sopko said.
But Sopko said ACT’s infrastructure does not extend to every business in town. The company does not face any structural obstacles to building out its network, Sopko said, its simply a matter of whether expanding the network makes business sense.
“It’s really a matter of, if it’s going to cost $30,000 to get from point A to Z, can we make enough money to justify doing that build?” Sopko said.
Rios said that the inconsistent coverage in Sheridan could limit the city’s ability to attract some businesses. Businesses moving to Sheridan could find access to the fastest available services, but they would be limited in where in the city they could locate, which could potentially make locating in Sheridan more expensive than in another area.