Gillette-Based Internet Service Provider Connects Rural Communities in Wyoming and Beyond

Gillette-Based Internet Service Provider Connects Rural Communities in Wyoming and Beyond

Visionary Broadband is a Gillette-based Internet service provider that connects rural communities in a tri-state region. Since its inception in the mid-1990s, the company has had approximately 200 employees in several major offices throughout Cowboy State and beyond.

Currently, about a quarter of Wyoming residents still do not have broadband internet access.

“Visionary has always prided itself on reaching into smaller communities, we were the first to bring broadband to places like Wright and Ranchester, Newcastle,” said Brian Worthen, CEO of Visionary Broadband. “In the early days of broadband, we would often go to these communities, when someone in the community would say, ‘Hey, I want better service here, I want an option, I want an alternative, or I want broadband. I can list the people who have called us or who have pleaded or pleaded or whatever you want to say for us to come and develop in their area.

Their operation has grown significantly since Visionary was first launched by three Gillette residents in a basement in December 1994. They now cover more than 100 communities in Wyoming, Colorado and Montana and are aggressively hiring as they continue their mission to connect even more communities with fast internet access.

“A lot of our fiber expansion right now is based in places like Gillette, Casper, Cheyenne and those are what I would call core network locations,” Worthen said. “We just completed a 100 gig ring through Sheridan, Gillette, down to Cheyenne and finally Denver to expand our capacity. We just completed our expansion in 2018. Luckily COVID traffic increased and we were actually prepared, so we always want to stay ahead of the game. To do that, we need to make sure we have fiber resources in those great communities. »

Fiber optic cable is one of the primary means of bringing the service to communities, which Worthen says is sometimes leased from another company, while at other times Visionary builds it itself.

“For example, Lusk, we have fiber all the way and we have a microwave or a wireless router for reliability,” he explained. “Ranchester and Dayton, we feed them fiber. LaGrange, Wyoming, we eat fiber [as well as] Yoder. So it’s not necessarily the smaller the city, the less technology there is. We feed fiber to these very small communities up to 300 homes, then we will use if there is not a second fiber route or alternative out of town, we will just use for this reliability reason a micro-backhaul. licensed waves that goes in another direction.

Very rural areas, such as those with only a few dozen inhabitants, can be served only by a wireless connection due to the prohibitive costs of installing fiber optic cable. But grants can help in this process, which was the case with the CARES Act COVID Relief Fund, allowing them to expand service to areas that otherwise would not have been financially possible. Additional help came from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which allowed cable to be laid to Lusk, as well as for projects in Sublette and Sheridan counties.

“It’s a total of 42.5 billion dollars [and in] Wyoming alone, via ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] $109 million for broadband via PEARL [Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment]it could amount to more than 200 million dollars [and] businesses have to be ready for that,” Worthen said. “And we took that responsibility on our shoulders and said, ‘We’ll be the local guys trying to move the needle with these funds. “”

Providing a personal touch is integral to success and expansion efforts, a fact that Worthen and the company’s employees take great pride in. It has even led some customers to turn away from larger enterprise vendors.

“Visionary has always prided itself on doing everything in-house, we do tech support in-house, email in-house, customer service in-house,” he explained. “When someone calls Visionary, it rings one of our employees.”

Expansion efforts continue throughout their tri-state service area to connect communities ranging from a few hundred people to those numbering several thousand or more. Currently, Wyoming ranks among the worst states in the country for internet speed and accessibility.

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