Private companies express interest in county broadband


Three private companies

responded to a request for

proposal submitted by the Sublette

County Broadband Working Group

earlier this autumn. The report came

from Joanne Hovis, president of CTC

Technology and Engineering, in a

phone conference with the Board of County

Commissioners at their Nov. 20 meeting.

Hovis is consulting with the county on

the complex task of establishing a workable

agreement between private companies and

public entities to provide high-speed broadband

services across the county. The three

private companies who formally responded

to the request for proposal were Visionary

Communications, Silver Star and All-West

Communications.

All three companies were vetted by a team

at CTC, Hovis said. The companies were

“very viable entities” that offered a “low risk”

to the county. All three had experience working

with rural communities to build communications

infrastructure, she added.

The companies remained vague on committing

to a “solid number” on how much

they planned to invest in the project, Hovis

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said. Hovis urged the commissioners to use

this vagueness to negotiate with each company

to find an agreement that will give the

county the best return on its investment.

The fact that three separate companies

responded to the request for proposal with

“strong bids” increased the ability for the

county to negotiate a good deal, she added.

Commissioner Mack Rawhouser raised

the concern that each proposal committed the

county to provide a large amount of funding

to build the initial infrastructure.

“With the county putting up most of the

money and leasing the infrastructure to private

companies, we’re becoming the bank,”

he said.

Hovis responded that most rural broadband

projects were only feasible with investment

from a public entity to build the infrastructure.

“The economics of providing rural broadband

are so challenging that it is hard for large

and small private companies to invest in a

project without some kind of public investment,”

she said.

CTC is also working on grant applications

on behalf of the county to obtain funding from

the federal Economic Development Administration

and the Wyoming Business Council.

Board chairman Andy Nelson asked Hovis

to advise the commissioners on whether they

should prioritize working on the grant applications

or enter into negotiations with the

companies who responded to the request for

proposal.

Hovis replied that having an agreement

lined out with private companies to finance

part of the project will make a grant application

much stronger. She urged the commissioners

to pursue each company to get them

to commit to an investment amount that will

provide Sublette County with the “biggest

bang for the buck.” She added that the timeline

for the grants was not “immediate.”

The commissioners agreed to put a hold on

applying for grants and enter into negotations

with the three companies who proposed bids.

Hovis said she can be available to travel to

Sublette County and help with negotiations as

early as December.


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