Municipal Fiber Plan Frosts Wyoming Operator

The owners of Sweetwater Cable TV in Sweetwater County, Wyo., thought it would be a good idea to link their Rock Springs and Green River properties via fiber-optic link.

They thought it would be an even better idea to get the local cities to go in on the infrastructure with them, in return for using 60 of the 96 fibers the operator hoped to install.

Now, owners Al Carollo Jr., 68, and his dad, Al Sr., 80, wish they'd kept their idea to themselves.

Instead of partnering with Sweetwater — which has served Rock Spring (population 18,700) and Green River (population 11,800) for 50 years — a municipal authority has decided to build its own network.

If the Carollos want to use the fiber, they have to bid into the project, or pay for transport.

"If they do this, they will need 50% of our customers just to stay in business," said the younger Carollo. "I don't know if we'd have a business [under those conditions]. We've always tried to keep our prices low."

The Carollos approached the cities in 2000 with a plan to run fiber underground.

"They didn't know how to handle it, so they formed a joint powers authority," the younger Carollo explained. From that point, he said, Sweetwater Cable was kept "out of the loop."

According to the Joint Powers Telecommunications Board's Web site, the cities hired U.S. Metronets L.C. of Salt Lake City to examine the feasibility of building a municipal telecommunications network.

At a public meeting early last month, the board described plans for a $31-million fiber-to-the-home network open to multiple providers.

Having a modern, scalable telecommunications network is a matter of "compelling community interest," the board concluded.

The board coined a cute name, too: Southwestern Wyoming Enhanced and Expanded Telecommunications, or

The network would expand local utility services with such functions as remote metering and countywide enhanced 911 emergency service.

New broadband services will include high-speed data, Internet-protocol telephony services, telemedicine and video-on-demand.

The JPTB has posted requests for proposals for fiber use and transport partners.

Seventy-five percent of funding would come from the sale of bonds, with 25% from two commercial partners.

The JPTB does not list telephone numbers on its site, and did not respond to e-mail inquiries.

Carollo Jr. said he's questioned whether the venture can capture 50% to 70% of the market, as projected by the consultant.

He also said he doubts claims that the venture will save consumers money. Sweetwater currently offers a 65-channel basic package for $24.68. If it pays $12 per month for transport to the county, the extra cost would make it a $36 package.

"How does that save anybody money?" he asked.