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Elliott Column: Help Us Improve Broadband In Wyoming

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By Russ Elliott
Wyoming Broadband Program Manager
russ.elliott@wyo.gov

Vast expanses and a rural lifestyle doesn’t have to mean a digital disconnect with the rest of the world. In the last year, Wyoming has started setting the standard for others to follow in terms of access to fast, reliable broadband.

Since the Wyoming Legislature passed Senate File 100 in 2018, the Wyoming Business Council has hired me to be the state’s broadband manager, appointed members of a Broadband Advisory Council, written a broadband enhancement plan and created a grant program to help connect unserved areas of Wyoming to broadband internet.

One of our first initiatives as a state has been to develop a reliable standard of measurement for who has internet access, how good is that access and what technology are they using. After all, what gets measured, gets done.

We have released a state mapping initiative to better understand what areas do and don’t have fast, reliable internet service. You can help us compile critical data by visiting www.wyobbmap.org and submitting a speed test and your location so we can better understand how to use our resources efficiently. Then, you can tell your neighbors to do the same thing.

Rural broadband is to this century what rural electrification was to the last century: infrastructure critical to economic survival. More than half of Wyoming’s residents live a rural lifestyle by choice or because of family history. Rural communities are already under extreme economic pressure, and having access to scalable, affordable and reliable broadband is vital if we are to alleviate some of this pressure, and even turn our handicaps into advantages.

Rural communities need broadband for essential services like healthcare, education, agriculture, remote work opportunities, government services and expanded business reach. Bridging the digital divide is critical to Wyoming’s future.

As the average age of our state’s residents continues to climb, it is important to understand the benefits robust broadband brings to that aging demographic. Healthcare and communication are key to living longer in our homes. Eliminating round trips that can add up to hundreds of miles just for a follow up or checkup visit with a doctor is a cost and time savings for both the patient and the physician.

Once again, I appreciate the opportunity to share with you information on the state broadband initiative. I look forward to updating the AARP membership on the progress the state is making toward faster, more reliable broadband. I also want to hear from you about your broadband challenges and successes. Please do not hesitate to contact me at russ.elliott@wyo.gov, or call my office at 307-777-6430.

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