Mayor Proposes Fiber Optic Fee Moratorium in Cheyenne, Wyo.

(TNS) — CHEYENNE – Mayor Marian Orr on Tuesday announced a plan to bring high-speed broadband internet access to the downtown and West Edge district of Cheyenne.

Speaking downtown at the Array School of Technology & Design, Orr announced her plan to seek a six-month moratorium on public right-of-way fees for the installation of the fiber optic cables high-speed internet connections rely on. The idea, she said, is to provide incentive to broadband internet service providers who have wanted to come into Cheyenne, but have been put off by the existing fees. Orr noted the fees downtown come to $2.50 per linear foot, which she said is a needlessly onerous expense and a barrier to proper redevelopment in the downtown and West Edge areas.

“I believe high-speed internet availability to every location in downtown and the West Edge is every bit as critical as the ability to turn on the lights,” Orr said. Eric Trowbridge, the headmaster for Array, said that as his school has grown, so too have its broadband needs. But without the sort of gigabit-speed access enjoyed by Wyoming towns like Worland and Thermopolis, he and his students’ wireless devices can only do so much before they hit a data bottleneck.

“As a school, this is not, ‘Oh it’d be nice,’ this is ‘We need this,'” Trowbridge said. “We’re proud of Array and have a lot of big dreams and visions for our school.

In three to five years we want to be one of the nation’s best tech and design schools. This fiber network is the first step to ensuring we can do things like that.”

Dave Teubner, the co-founder of West Edge marketing agency Warehouse Twenty One, agreed that opening the door to affordable high-speed internet will be critical to growing his own business and helping to foster new ones in a portion of town that has great potential to be a hub for tech business.

“You’re not eating into a competitive advantage with this, you’re getting to a baseline,” Teubner said. “This is need-to-have infrastructure, and I think this (fee moratorium) is a game changer.”

Orr said any moratorium on fiber right-of-way fees would need to be formally approved by the City Council, and she hopes to see a resolution work its way through the body over the coming weeks, in time to have the moratorium in place through the last six months of this year. She noted that she’s already gotten an enthusiastic response from councilmen Scott Roybal, Jeff White and Pete Laybourn, who represent the ward where the moratorium would be in effect.

As to whether the moratorium might actually spur broadband providers to come to Cheyenne, Orr said she’s been in talks with several such providers about what sorts of incentives they’re looking for.

“There’s been interest expressed, but the right-of-way fees have really been an extreme barrier,” she said, adding that with Tuesday’s announcement, “I have two companies that are very excited.”

Once a company is able to get approval to install fiber optic lines in the downtown or West Edge area, Orr said they may pursue a franchisee agreement with the city that would allow them to continue operating and expanding without any further fear of right-of-way fees in the future.

“Hopefully within six months they could start laying fiber,” Orr said. “The city would then get a portion of the revenue they get from their monthly fees and contracts with individuals.

“Talking with provider companies, they’re very excited about coming in and providing this opportunity,” Orr added. “And I think we’re going to have some really exciting conversations here in the next couple of weeks.”

(C)2017 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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