Orr Announces Economic Development Initiative to Promote Broadband Expansion
CHEYENNE—Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr on Tuesday called for a six-month moratorium on public rights-of-way fees in downtown Cheyenne and the West Edge as a way to attract more broadband providers to the area.
Holding the press conference in downtown Cheyenne at the Array School of Technology — Wyoming’s first and only coding school — Orr said the temporary elimination of these fees would be the equivalent of designating these locations as Enterprise Zones — areas where an incentive is offered to encourage business development.
“I’ve had numerous conversations with business owners who are upset with the availability, prices, and speeds for high-speed broadband,” Orr said. “Studies have shown in cities across the country that competition drives down prices. We need to enable more competition.”
“Let me be very clear,” she said. “If Cheyenne is to compete, if Cheyenne is to attract high-paying jobs, if Cheyenne wants to be considered on anyone’s short-list, and if our downtown has any shot of revitalization, we must offer state-of-the-art connectivity and it can’t break the bank.”
Orr said she’s had numerous conversations with broadband providers who currently don’t provide high-speed broadband services to Cheyenne but would if the rights-of-way fees weren’t so high.
“We’ve got a lot to fix with our regulatory climate,” she said. “We shouldn’t penalize business, we should encourage it. This is a first step toward doing exactly that.”
Orr was joined by Eric Trowbridge, the founder of the Array School which just graduated its first class in April. “Eric came to me numerous times and asked, ‘Why is it that Worland and Thermopolis are gigabit cities — they have fiber availability at the doorstep of every house and every business in both towns — and the Capital City does not?”
“There’s a reason for that,” Orr continued. “The broadband playing field is uneven, it’s unfair, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. We can’t complain about it. Instead, let’s do something about it and bring in competition.”
Orr said the timing of eliminating the fees for the remainder of 2017 is symbolic as well, as Cheyenne celebrates its 150th anniversary this summer.
“150 years ago, Cheyenne sprang up virtually overnight, earning the nick-name of ‘Magic City of the Plains’ as it grew from nothing to a city of commerce — almost overnight,” she said. “We began our humble beginnings in the West Edge, along Crow Creek and almost magically, our downtown exploded. The catalyst for this rapid growth was the Union Pacific and the completion of the track through Cheyenne.”
“I believe innovation is to the 21st century what the steam engine was to the industrial revolution,” she said. “And without affordable and accessible rapid connectivity, we cannot court innovation.”
“High speed internet availability to every location in our downtown and west-edge is every bit as critical as being able to turn on the lights,” she said. “I don’t believe Cheyenne should be in the business of providing these services, but I do believe we shouldn’t stand in the way. And with our current fee structure – that is exactly what we are doing.”
Orr spoke with the councilmen representing downtown Cheyenne and the West Edge (Ward 1 Councilmen Scott Roybal, Jeff White, and Pete Laybourne) and they expressed their support for the moratorium.
“This is what a public/private partnership looks like,” she said. “And with fees, let’s face it. We can’t collect on them if no one will pay. So, let’s take another approach. I believe we need to be serious about building the support structures necessary for real innovation.”