O'Rielly Seeks Answers on Potential Wyoming Overbuilds

(Image credit: Future Media)

Some Wyoming cable broadband providers have complained to FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly about potential overbuilding of their systems by the recipients of CARES Act COVID-19 ad bill grants. O'Reilly has, in turn, reached out to the state for some answers, according to a copy or a letter to Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon.

The grants are being administered by the Wyoming Business Council's (WBC) Connect Wyoming program, O'Rielly, who is no fan of using government money to overbuild existing networks built with private capital, told the governor that based on information brought to his attention, "the WBC has not publicly released the applications or proposed coverage maps for the grant recipients, nor has it taken the requisite steps to ensure subsidized overbuilding did not and will not occur."

CARES Act Bill Has Billions for Broadband

O'Rielly said that there are allegations--he does not say from whom--that one or more of the grant recipients will wind up overbuilding recipients of the FCC's Universal Service Fund Connect America Fun Phase II money. He said if that is true, it would "not only artificially impair the value of the FCC’s past and current subsidies but would also undercut providers’ willingness to compete in future FCC reverse auctions."

He told the governor he would like the WBC to immediately release coverage maps for its projects so that current cable and fiber broadband providers in the state can challenge duplicative projects and stop funding for any that subsidize overbuilding.

The CARES Act had $1.5 billion in funding to aid communities impacted by COVID-19 that could be used for broadband deployment among many other things. Then there was another $16 billion that could be tapped for distance learning, including connectivity.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.