Union Wireless awarded $23 million to improve Wyoming network
Union Wireless earlier this month was awarded almost $23 million to help bridge gaps in mobile coverage throughout Wyoming.
The Federal Communications Commission awarded the money through a market-based reform of the Universal Service Program, upon finding $300 million in savings from cutting waste and inefficiency to the new Mobility Fund.
Jan Fasselin, of Union Wireless, said the company had to bid on coverage areas and whichever company provided the lowest cost per mile received the bid.
“It was kind of like a reverse auction,” said Brian Woody, Union Wireless’ chief customer relations officer. “Instead of the highest bidder it was the lowest.”
The goal of the fund is to improve high-speed data access to rural areas of the U.S.
According to a news release from Union Wireless, the funds will allow the company to cover an additional 13,577 miles of roads in Wyoming.
The release said the FCC requires winning companies to raise millions of dollars in private investment to complement the mobility auction funding.
Woody said the match is basically coming out of what the company normally spends on capital build-out.
The auction rules require winning companies make their networks available to other providers’ customers for roaming purposes. That rule allows everyone to benefit from the expansion.
Woody said the company has roaming agreements with several national and international wireless companies.
“Union has built an extensive regional network with the goal of converting it to the next generation of 3G and 4G wireless services. With this funding, Union will be able to provide a vast high-speed network for the public’s benefit,” Woody said in the release.
Union Wireless serves Wyoming, Northwest Colorado and northeastern Utah.
“What this allow us to do, since we weren’t able to bid on anything in Colorado,” Woody said, “is it allows us to use money we would have used in other areas farther down into Colorado, instead of spending it on other pieces of network we were already going to build.”
Woody said the money would allow the company to do about double what it normally does in network build-out over the next few years, saying the company normally spent between $20 million and $30 million a year through Wyoming, Colorado and parts of Utah.
“This will allow us to bring to customers services they could have in Denver and Salt Lake that don’t always make it out to Craig, Meeker and more rural communities.”
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