The rural nature of Wyoming and the large areas of sparse population present major challenges to internet providers. The high cost and poor returns make it impractical for commercial firms to install a statewide high speed service. This to some degree explains why the state was ranked 47th in 2009 with an average download speed of 2.6 mbps, hardly changed from the pervious year.
Wyoming applied for stimulus funding and was awarded $1.8 million in November 2009, $1.3 million for mapping of broadband service availability and the balance for planning. This is to be undertaken under the Link Wyoming project, which is managed by the LinkAMERICA Alliance and CostQuest Associates. Prior to this, under the Wyoming Broadband Awareness and Wellness Initiative, CostQuest Associates had mapped and assessed barriers to deployment for any internet provider. It had identified unserved and gap areas, then provided estimates of cost to deploy using varying technologies.
The maps to be produced with NTIA funding will be based on ISP and other data sources. They will show served, underserved and unserved areas, transmission speeds by area and the type of access provided (such as DSL, fiber optic cable and wireless internet access).
Various companies have worked to improve the service over the years. At the local level, LARIAT was established in 1991 as the first terrestrial wireless internet service provider in Laramie. This was a time when it had no provider of broadband internet services other than the university campus. Verizon Wireless expanded its EVDO (evolution data optimized) service in Cheyenne and Laramie in 2007, having invested $41 million in its Wyoming network over four years. Wifi hotspots, however, remain well scattered around the state leaving large areas with no coverage.
As the least populous state in the US, Wyoming is composed of a great plateau broken by several mountain ranges. Climate generally is arid and varies by altitude and latitude, with summers tending to be warm and winters usually cold ... that may sound like a sadly obvious statement to most European readers but US States can vary in climate dramatically.
With more than 91% of land classified as rural, agriculture has always been important. However, mineral extraction, travel and tourism are now the main economic drivers. Cheyenne is the state capital and largest city, followed by Casper, Laramie and Gillette.
Cities in Wyoming likely to have, or soon to receive, fiber optic cable internet services include Cheyenne, Casper, Laramie, Gillette and Rock Springs. Locations in WY with highest population counts will be targeted first by providers, though relatively high speeds can be achieved with dial-up or DSL through companies such as Netzero and Charter Communications Cable.