In a move to address rural digital equity issues in America, Vistabeam, in partnership with Microsoft, is opening the first Vistabeam Empowerment Center in Torrington, Wyoming. The Empowerment Center will offer digital skill training, broadband-enabled workstations, videoconference-enabled meeting space, and digital navigation assistance for people who lack access to these resources. Set to open in the coming weeks, the center will be available for everyone, regardless of whether they are customers of Vistabeam.
Since 2004, Vistabeam’s primary mission has been to bridge the digital divide and has grown to cover parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The company is fulfilling this mission by providing rural residential and business internet services, participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband programs, and partnering with Microsoft.
The Empowerment Center will feature several workstations for digital education, with computers available and accessible on a walk-in basis. Vistabeam will work with Microsoft to offer digital skills programming at these workstations along with access to other online learning resources. Other offerings include a videoconference-enabled meeting space that can be used by community organizations and will be available for telehealth appointments and online legal services. A trained digital navigator will be present to help eligible community members sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program and help with other digital equity requests.
“The Empowerment Center’s goal is to do exactly as the name states: to empower the community it serves, specifically through digital equity,” Matt Larsen, Vistabeam CEO, said. “There is a big need for digital skills and local assistance on technology issues throughout rural America, and southeast Wyoming is no different. We look at broadband as a way to help communities be more self-sufficient. Many of our customers don’t have the expertise to set up a telehealth monitoring system and may struggle to set up video conferencing on their own. We can help. As an ISP, we do a lot of tech support and help people with many of their digital needs. The Empowerment Center is a logical extension of that desire to help our community members.”
The Torrington Empowerment Center is planned to be the first of many. “We’d like to see it develop as a go-to place for people who have digital equity needs,” said Larsen. “We’d like to see it become something people feel comfortable with. We want them to come in and use the technology and hope it will help us develop closer ties with the community.”