Last week, the Wyoming Business Council (WBC), on behalf of the State of Wyoming, submitted an application requesting $30.8 million to expand broadband coverage across the state to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
NTIA is reviewing applications as part of the $288 million grant program funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the Act). Grants will be awarded to covered partnerships between a state, or political subdivisions of a state, and providers of fixed broadband service. The program’s 90-day application window closed on Tuesday, Aug. 17.
Due to the high volume of applications, the award process will be highly competitive. As outlined in the Act, priority will be given to applications with proposed projects that:
- Provide broadband service to the greatest number of households in an eligible service area;
- Provide broadband service to rural areas;
- Are most cost-effective in providing broadband service; or
- Provide broadband service with a download speed of at least 100 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 20 Mbps.
The Wyoming proposal includes 15 projects with the greatest concentration in the northwest part of the state as well as projects in Newcastle in the northeast to the rural areas surrounding Cokeville in the southwest. In total, the proposed projects will deliver modern broadband access to 2,574 locations within 585 census blocks currently considered unserved or underserved, 97 percent of these locations would have access to gigabit fiber with the remaining three percent served by millimeter wireless that also delivers gigabit download speeds.
"These projects would either not happen or would be significantly delayed without the support by the NTIA," said Ryan Kudera, Wyoming Broadband Manager. "The projects have a difficult return on investment and any funds provided by NTIA will shore up the extremely low ROIs. It is not only imperative for our providers to participate in the costs and obligations of this program but helps to ensure the success of these projects."
Breakdown of proposed projects:
- Six projects will design, construct, and deploy broadband to unserved and underserved census blocks within the towns of Shoshoni, Upton, Pavilion, Hudson, Newcastle, and Bonneville with gigabit fiber and wireless solutions to 310 census blocks serving 1,888 locations.
- The remaining nine projects will design, construct and deploy broadband to unserved and underserved census blocks in rural (mostly frontier) areas across the six counties of Teton, Fremont, Big Horn, Washakie, Park, and Lincoln with gigabit fiber connectivity to 275 census blocks serving 686 locations.
Wyoming's covered partnership is a public-private partnership in which the WBC’s Broadband Office will act as the grantee and will sub-grant dollars to private industry to deploy the broadband infrastructure.
"The Wyoming Broadband Program’s mission is to ensure every Wyoming citizen and business has access to affordable, reliable, redundant, and future-proof broadband," Kudera added. "Access to high-quality business and residential broadband is essential for so many reasons, including developing, growing, and attracting businesses, improving academic performance, supporting healthcare, promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, attracting investment, educating the workforce of the future, enhancing the quality of life, improving Wyoming’s position as a global competitor, and helping Wyoming rebound from the COVID-19 public health emergency."
NTIA expects to complete its review, selection of successful applicants, and award processing by Nov. 15, 2021. The earliest start date for awards under this Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is anticipated to be Nov. 29, 2021, according to NTIA.
For more information about the State of Wyoming's broadband programs and services, contact Kudera at firstname.lastname@example.org.