Wyoming telco gets $9.6M from U.S. for broadband

·2 min read

Sep. 22—WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government announced Thursday it is giving several million dollars to a Wyoming telecommunications provider so it can add fiber lines capable of delivering super-fast broadband.

Cody-based Tri County Telephone Association Inc. is set to receive $9.6 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "ReConnect" program, according to data from USDA. This is part of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announcing the department is awarding $502 million in loans and grants for fast internet access to "rural residents and businesses in 20 states."

"High-speed internet will improve the rural economy. It will help rural businesses grow and get access to new markets," Vilsack said in a USDA news release. Other nearby states with locations getting such funding include Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Based on information from USDA, it appears the sole recipient of this round of government financial infusions is Tri County Telephone Association Inc. A USDA representative, who the Wyoming Tribune Eagle was directed to by a USDA staffer, did not reply to an inquiry about whether there are any other recipients in the state.

The $9.6 million "will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network" to connect 204 people, 15 businesses and 19 farms to high-speed internet service in Big Horn, Hot Springs, Park, Sheridan and Washakie counties, USDA reported. The privately held recipient is Tri County Telephone Association. It goes by the name TCT and currently has almost 13,000 customers in northern Wyoming and southern Montana, its CEO, Richard Wardell, wrote in an email to the WTE.

Over a period of as long as five years, TCT will lay the fiber lines necessary for the broadband service, Wardell said by phone. In addition to the USDA funds, he said, the company itself is slated to pay almost $3 million for the necessary upgrades.

The locations are "all rural area of farms and ranches and along county roads, often, or state" roads, the executive said. "Most of those areas today, TCT serves with copper." Copper broadband service is much slower than other ways of delivering data.

Once deployed, the TCT internet service will be up to 10 Gbps fast for both downloads and uploads of content and data from online, "to truly future-proof these areas for generations to come," Wardell said. "It's all building blocks" by adding services and equipment, "it's one bite at a time," the CEO said.

"It is kind of a jigsaw puzzle of us adding components" to the company's network.

Jonathan Make is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's assistant managing editor and editor of the Wyoming Business Report. He can be reached at jmake@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3129. Follow him on Twitter @makejdm.