The National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Tuesday will host a workshop in Gillette on the $48 billion federal initiative to give everyone in the country internet access.
The idea is to give local governments money to expand broadband services in so-called “digital deserts” — places where high-speed, reliable internet isn’t available. The funding comes from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year.
The initiative is still in its beginning stages, said Andy Berke, special representative for broadband for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The workshop is meant to give Wyoming leaders a heads up on how to prepare for the funding. It’s a joint effort between the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, as well as the Wyoming Association of Municipalities and the Wyoming County Commissioners Association.
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Before allocating any money, the federal agency has to figure out where the digital deserts are, said Berke.
To that end, the Federal Communications Commission is putting together a map of local internet speeds around the country.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will use that data to calculate how much money of the $48 million pot to give each state. (States can expect at least $100 million for the project.)
All 50 states will have to submit a plan on how they plan to spend their allowances, and have them approved by the federal agency.
That’s bound to be a complicated process, Berke said. There are a lot of different ways local governments can choose to use their money — expanding internet services through private partnerships, cooperatives or municipal broadband systems, for example.
“We want states to be in position to put the plan together as quickly as possible,” Berke said.
Anyone interested in the day-long workshop, which begins at 8:30 am, can RSVP on its EventBrite page. Participants can attend in-person CAM-PLEX Wyoming Center in Gillette, or online.
Historically, Wyoming has lagged behind other states when it comes to internet coverage. Roughly 22% of Wyoming residents don’t have access to high-speed internet, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission.
With more people cooped up at home, some internet providers have seen up to four times more demand for speed upgrades or new connections.
The trillion-dollar infrastructure package also includes $14 billion to subsidize internet connection for low-income households, and $1.2 billion to USDA for rural broadband.
In addition to funding for broadband, Wyoming can expect to receive much more from the package, including:
- $1.8 billion to improve highways;
- $335 million to improve water infrastructure;
- $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs;
- $72 million for airport infrastructure development;
- $27 million to expand the state’s electric vehicle network; and
- $14 million to protect against wildfires.
Congress recently passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, and experts say the measure could help remedy longstanding issues in Wyoming.