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Officials praise residents for internet survey response

Crook County “proof of concept” for broadband mapping

 

April 11, 2019



Thrilled with the response to the broadband survey sent out across Crook County, Russ Elliott of the Wyoming Broadband Advisory Committee (WBAC) told the county commissioners on Wednesday that the model used to gather local responses will now be used across the state to build a clear picture of internet availability in Wyoming.

“You guys were our beta test,” Elliott said, referring to the postcards and other forms of notice sent out to county residents asking them to participate in the survey. The response, he said, was “tremendous”.

The specific results of the survey will not be made public because the intention is not to shame certain providers, Elliott explained. However, they will be analyzed by WBAC to pick out the areas in need of better service – or any service at all.

“We’re going to get everybody connected. That’s our goal and our mission,” Elliott said.

The idea, he explained, is to identify the respondents who said they have no broadband at their home and the reasons why this might be so. Some may have chosen not to make use of available service because it is too slow or unreliable, while others may simply not have the option where they live.

“The feds are throwing a billion dollars at this nationally,” Elliott said of the Reconnect Fund, which is designed to bring more of America’s rural communities online and will begin with a triage of $600 million in the spring and a second of $600 million in the fall.

The funding, said Elliott, is earmarked for “unserved” communities, which in Wyoming will be defined as of June as a connection below 25mb upload and 3mb download. The map being created through the survey will help to identify these areas.

At the federal level, said Elliott, the connectivity map only drills down to census levels. If a single home in that census area has sufficient broadband, it is marked as an area with sufficient connectivity.

However, that’s certainly not the case when you look closer, Elliott said. The Wyoming map is unique because it looks right down to parcel level to find the pockets in which internet is not currently available to appropriate standards.

The funding is not intended for government bodies, but for the providers who will be tasked with installing broadband. The map will therefore be used to identify areas and then approach incumbent providers or other available companies to see if they would be interested in and able to provide internet to those pockets.

Elliott pointed out that the map has been created for “little to no dollars” thanks to volunteer time and effort through the University of Wyoming. He compared this to the State of Virginia’s efforts to map broadband, which he said have so far cost $4.2 million.

Of the 534 total online responses to the broadband survey so far, Elliott told the commissioners that around 190 have come from Crook County. Commissioner Jeanne Whalen was able to hand over a “big handful” of around 75 additional responses that had been returned on postcards rather than directly inputted to the website, bringing the county’s total to approximately 265.

“Thank you very much for being a pioneer for us,” Elliott said, telling the commission that Crook County’s “proof of concept” will help WBAC continue to populate the map.

Meanwhile, data from this area will begin the vetting process to start identifying those pockets and contacting potential providers.

“The final results will be tabulated over the summer to be used by Crook County to apply for the state or federal broadband funds in the fall,” stated Commissioner Jeanne Whalen after the meeting.

“The Commissioners and WBAC are very pleased with the results, and thank everyone for taking the time to participate to get better service for our county.”

Elliott is aiming to get his “ducks in a row” ready for the fall triage of funding, he said, and asks people to continue contributing their data to the map in the meantime to help build the clearest picture possible.

To contribute your data, visit wyobbmap.org and complete the brief connectivity test as instructed.

 
 

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