Wyoming internet providers see huge surge in internet use
Internet providers in Wyoming say more people stuck at home because of coronavirus prevention efforts has meant a surge of work.
April 21, 2020
Internet providers in Wyoming say more people stuck at home because of coronavirus prevention efforts has meant a surge of work, as well as giving them and policy makers an even better idea of the number of Wyomingites with, or without, a broadband connection at home.
At the same time, parents now forced to work from home – usually at the same time children need to be online for school work or are otherwise busy using their devices – have put a strain on home internet speeds.
That’s all in a state that is among the worst for access to broadband internet connections, which brings with them speeds providers say are needed or helpful – especially when customers are demanding more at once from their internet because more people are stuck inside their homes to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
The increasing demand has resulted in some internet providers in Wyoming being flooded with requests for new internet connections or requests to upgrade service. Providers have also done what they can to increase their capacity to offer increased speeds to customers.
“We’re seeing a lot of activity right now. The workload is crazy,” said Brian Worthen, CEO and one of the owners of Gillette-based Visionary Broadband. “It’s an unprecedented situation, but we’re all encountering it, not just one or two providers. It’s every provider.”
Visionary Broadband provides service in 94 Wyoming communities, as well as Washington, Colorado and Montana. Some of Visionary Broadband’s work crews have been logging seven day workweeks to keep up with demand, Worthen said.
Other providers in the state have said they’ve been similarly busy, said Ryan Kudera, Wyoming broadband manager for the Wyoming Business Council. Some companies, he said, have told him that they’ve seen their installation and service calls jump by as much as four times their usual levels.
Despite the increase in usage and changes in use habits, like needing a speedy upload connection for work or school projects, providers have said service interruptions or outages have been minimal lately, according to Kudera.
Providers and their employees have also had to adjust how they work to protect customers and prevent spreading the coronavirus, providers said. That means limiting face-to-face interaction with customers by not going into homes and having customers complete all paperwork online.
For Patrick Lawson, executive manager of Wind River Tribal Industries, which operates Wind River Internet, the emphasis on protecting customers and not spreading the illness even prompted the company to buy a 3-D printer to make its own personal protective equipment like masks.
The Federal Communications Commission has also asked providers to take a number of steps, including not shutting off service to businesses or homes that can’t pay their bills due to the coronavirus’ economic fallout and providing Wi-Fi hot spots to those who may need them.