SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council released a draft of its Broadband Enhancement Plan this week and discussed next steps for the plan during a conference call Tuesday.
The legislation that created the advisory council, which was part of Gov. Matt Mead’s ENDOW Initiative, allocated $10 million for broadband improvement projects, and the plan outlines strategies the advisory council formulated to make the most of that funding.
The “moonshot” goal of the plan is to ensure every Wyoming business and citizen has access to high-speed broadband internet by 2025.
The strategies the plan describes for reaching that goal, though, are varied and flexible, based on the belief that no one solution will work for the entire state.
During Tuesday’s call, several members of the advisory council said the final draft of the plan should rank priorities for broadband improvement, and advisory council chairman Doug Wilson asked members to bring their individual priority rankings to the council’s next meeting, where it will finalize the plan.
The strategies for delivering improved broadband will likely vary in different regions of the state and the plan recommends the Wyoming Business Council facilitate the creation of regional partnerships and public-private partnerships to deliver broadband improvements. Specifically, the plan suggests the creation of regional broadband councils, which will be composed of local public and private stakeholders that will work toward and encourage broadband development to help determine the best strategies for improving broadband in a region of the state.
However, Brett Glass, the owner of Lariat.net, an internet service provider in Laramie, told the council the plan does not address crucial barriers to expanding internet access.
“The biggest flaw that I see in the draft plan is that it fails to emphasize that middle-mile connectivity is the biggest hurdle we face here in Wyoming,” Glass said. Middle-mile connectivity refers to the stretch of a network that connects an internet provider to local hubs to which residents of an area can connect. Glass explained there are areas of the state that are either too far away from internet access or would be too expensive for providers to extend service into those regions.
Wilson said the council will work with Glass to address those issues before the plan is finalized.
The enhancement plan draft is available on the Wyoming Business Council’s website, and the Broadband Advisory Council will accept public comments on the Enhancement Plan until Aug. 20. The group will then meet in Lander Aug. 23 to finalize the enhancement plan and submit it to the state Legislature and the ENDOW council by Sept. 1.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the advisory council decided it would continue to meet quarterly after the plan was submitted.