CASPER — The Wyoming Business Council’s Broadband Advisory Council worked last Friday to more specifically define the term underserved in reference to statewide broadband coverage and discussed mapping for current broadband coverage throughout the state.
The group approved the Broadband Enhancement Plan nearly a month ago. Sheridan local and ACT general manager Aaron Sopko suggested the group create a more definitive explanation of underserved. The motion was retracted, but the group agreed to bring it up at the next meeting.
During the Oct. 12 meeting, several group members felt it more conducive to create the map before defining underserved.
Teal Wyckoff, a research scientist at the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center, presented for the Broadband Advisory Council subcommittee on steps being taken to create a comprehensive mapping and speed testing website for the state. Phase I includes collecting initial data and building a user interface with a baseline map with a compilation of available data and a speed test and reporting tool. Phase II includes refining and verifying the data and including data contributions from providers. Phase III will create a sustainability plan for data updates and integrate a mobile version for speed testing and reporting of broadband internet. The fourth and final stage will have the subcommittee analyzing and leveraging the data while bulking up the reporting and analysis of that data.
“We have a lot of data at our fingertips, but we don’t have all the data that we need in order to answer some of these more refined questions,” Wyckoff said. “That’s the other component of this: How can we gather some additional, more refined information so that we can begin to provide all of you with some more concrete answers?”
Collection, implementation and sustainability cannot be completed without funding. Another subcommittee detailed the plan for seeking funding.
“I think identifying the funding is going to be a process similar to mapping but less arduous because there’s a lot of different funding sources,” Lauren Schoenfeld said. “There are a lot of federal funding sources, a lot of state options and it’s going to take some time and some effort to pull those all together and come up with a list.”
Schoenfeld said it has been discussed several times that a list be made to identify funding sources and what need each funding source will fit. She also said she anticipates making that list available on the website.
The group shifted back to better establishing definitions. Unserved is currently defined in Wyoming statutes.
The Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council recommended more clearly defining underserved by adding the following statement: “The term “underserved” is the gray area between the well-defined terms of “served” and “unserved,” which includes opportunities to be seized related to redundancy, quality of service, affordability and customer satisfaction to fulfill their mission. The additional definition could increase funding options.
“The idea is we’re providing a different set of funding options in that area that is ‘underserved’ to get over the 25/3 (25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload speeds minimum) mark,” said Chad Rupe, Wyoming state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture — Rural Development out of Douglas.
The WBC Broadband Advisory Council will continue pushing initiatives to help Wyoming become a well-distributed broadband state.