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, October 15, 2020

Things you didn’t know that you didn’t know about rural Telecoms – Part Two

The Who, What, When, Where & Why of Silver Star’s Broadband Expansion

The following is part two of a four-part series that we hope will explain the details of how Silver Star is building out its fiber-optic network over the next 5-10 years. 

As strange as this may sound, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some positive, accelerated changes for broadband customers in rural America.

Learning and working from home quickly became a new way of life for many people. Having access to broadband internet infrastructure is now critical to learning and working from home as well as accessing necessary services such as shopping and telehealth. Through the Coronavirus Aid & Relief Fund, the CARES Act provided payments to State, Local, and Tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Part of this funding is going toward much-needed broadband expansion.  The Wyoming Business Council awarded Silver Star $14.5M to complete a broadband project in the southern part of Star Valley where some of the greatest need currently exists. We are reprioritizing $2.5M of our typical capital budget toward the project (bringing the project to a total of $17M) to serve approximately 2,680 customers with access to new, fiber-optic broadband services.

In Idaho, the City of Driggs applied for and was awarded $2.97M through the Idaho Broadband grant program, approved by the Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC) to utilize CARES Act funds to meet COVID-19 emergency criteria. We are contributing a 15% match, which was reallocated from our standard capital budget, bringing the total to $3.4M to serve fiber-fed broadband to almost 700 customers. The construction of this project, specific to an area in downtown Driggs, is being fulfilled by Silver Star.

This is an UNPRECEDENTED opportunity! Here’s why we had to switch priorities from our regulated areas to these CARES Act funded areas this year.

Here is the kicker.  All these funds must be used, and projects must be completed by the end of 2020!  The CARES grants are essentially miracle funds and truly are unprecedented. To finish these projects by year- end, Silver Star has steered most of its employees (and hired a bunch of third-party contractors and temporary help) to focus on them. We know that this is a funding opportunity that won’t likely come by again and had to jump on the chance to serve southern Star Valley and downtown Driggs with the most cutting-edge broadband technology, all at no cost to them. 

Think about it this way

In 2020, of which there are only about 3 months left, Silver Star is building out the equivalent of 4-years’ worth of normal fiber construction (that would typically happen during a much warmer 6-month period each year) IN 3 ½ MONTHS!

Coming up in Part III – What about me? Who is getting the fiber next and when are they getting it?