2020 “The Year of the Pandemic” brought a unique set of challenges to Vistabeam and all of the communities in our service area. The school and business shutdowns, health concerns and massive disruption to our lifestyles lead to changes that showed how important broadband is for our education, work and entertainment needs. The increased load on networks was a challenge for many providers, but Vistabeam was ready for the demand and responded with a massive surge of construction to increase capacity and coverage of our service areas in Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado.
We were very fortunate to have great partners to work with. The States of Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming worked with us to utilize grant funds from State Programs and the Federal CARES Act to accelerate our network upgrades and expand into several new areas where broadband was desperately needed. A strong and steady push throughout the year put us two years ahead of schedule on our planned network upgrades and expansions and speeds up to 100MB are now available in a large portion of the Vistabeam service area. Vistabeam worked with the City of Scottsbluff to purchase a new infrastructure facility, purchase upgraded equipment, and add ten new full-time positions. This improved our construction capacity and the capabilities of our teams to respond to customer needs. Vistabeam is also a Microsoft AirBand partner and this partnership focused on improving digital training skills, marketing our services to more people, and establishing the Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Program services for low-income or at-risk customers.
Here is a state-by-state breakdown of Vistabeam’s major accomplishments in 2020:
- Additional capacity turned on in Akron and at Denver NOC
- CBRS and Access Point upgrades in Sterling, Washington and Yuma Counties
- Completion of Colorado Broadband Fund grant in Jackson County
- New backbone upgrades to Fleming and Fort Morgan
- New towers secured in Fort Morgan and Brush for 2021 Upgrades
- New towers at brought online at Highlands Road, Harrisburg South, Potter and the Scottsbluff
Soccer Field Water Tank
- CARES Act Broadband projects completed in Banner, Chase, Cheyenne, Deuel, Garden, Kimball, Morrill, Perkins and Scotts Bluff Counties including upgraded microwave backhauls and a wide- scale deployment of new Non-Line of Sight (NLOS) access points using CBRS spectrum that can serve more customers than previous systems
- Fiber backhaul upgrades to improve capacity in Henry, Morrill and Scottsbluff areas
- Middle mile fiber project completed between Torrington and Morrill, NE adding massive backbone capacity into Goshen County
- Coverage extended to Centennial and Wild Horse Ranch areas in Albany County
- CARES Act Broadband projects completed in Centennial, Wild Horse Ranch and other areas around Albany County, Hartville and Guernsey in Platte County, Hawk Springs in Goshen County
- Backbone upgrades in Lusk, Glenrock, Lingle and Laramie
- New towers in place in rural Niobrara County, northern Goshen County and southern Converse County for 2021 backbone and access points upgrades
How do you follow a year like 2020? With a continued strong effort to upgrade and expand quality broadband service to even more people. All the work done in 2020 laid a great foundation for success in 2021 as we work to enable 100MB speeds to all of our customers, expand into new service areas in Wyoming and Northern Colorado, and start deploying hybrid fiber and wireless networks in towns all over our service area. The team at Vistabeam is committed to bringing extraordinary connections to all of our customers in 2021!
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) awarded a portion of the Remote Access Rural Broadband Grant to Vistabeam in August.
Forty million dollars in the CARES Act Federal Funding was committed to this grant program, and applications were due at the end of July. Vistabeam made nine applications and all were awarded. An aggressive work plan was put together to get all of the updates completed over a four-month timeline.
“We have added eight full-time jobs since the grants were applied for and lined up multiple contractors to help us with the construction,” said Matt Larsen, CEO of Vistabeam. “There are supply chain issues that may ultimately slow our progress, but I have been amazed at how much progress our team has made in such a short period of time.”
The counties to benefit from the grant will be Banner, Chase, Cheyenne, Deuel, Garden, Kimball, Perkins, and Scotts Bluff. The upgrades will deliver up to 100Mbps downloads speeds and will work through trees, where before the company relied on line-of-sight to provide a connection.
Vistabeam had existing infrastructure in these counties and had a three year tplan to upgrade these portions of the network. The terms of the grant require the work to be completed by the end of 2020.
“The deadline has been a huge challenge for us, but we have stepped up to add more capacity. Our goal is to make sure that 25/3 is the minimal package that we will make available, and the speeds will go up from there,” Larsen said.
Upgrades to 20 existing sites and three new tower locations are in progress, with some sites already completed.
Each site will be able to deliver up to 100Mbps download speeds to residents and will have several hours of backup battery capacity. In the event of a power outage, there will be multiple ways to get to the Internet on through other towers and fiber connections on the Vistabeam network.
The Broadband program was one of four grants designed and administered by the Nebraska DED this year to support the state’s economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The broadband grant opportunity was made possible by the federal CARES Act funding, including $1.08 billion of Coronavirus Relief funds allocated to the State of Nebraska and announced by DED last spring. The grants target areas of the state where high-speed internet service is nonexistent or subpar based on the FCC standard of 25/3 Mbps download/upload speeds.
Vistabeam will be performing installation of your internet connection differently during social distancing. This video was created to help describe our new process.
WE WILL KEEP YOU CONNECTED
You will not be disconnected from service for the next 60 days for non-payment. Though keep in mind, our suspension process is automated and will shut off service if arrangements are not made ahead of time. Contact us before your disconnect date. In the event you don’t call ahead of time and you are disconnected, call to let us know and we will reactivate your service.
HOW TO REACH US
In order to prioritize the health and safety of our customers, communities, and team, we are postponing non-essential installs or service calls for the next couple of weeks. We are also closing our lobbies.
For payments, inquiries, and support please reach out to us via phone or email. We are fully staffed and here to help!
Business and Commercial Inquiries
PRICE CHANGES AND PROGRAMS
If you haven’t already, you will receive a printed letter updating you on price changes we have been working to implement since the beginning of the year. Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or concerns you may have.
In conjunction with those changes, we will be implementing a Lifeline Broadband program that will provide a $9.25/month credit on broadband service for qualifying individuals. We are working to implement this program ASAP and will keep you updated on the qualification process.
IN THE COMMUNITY
We have installed outdoor community wi-fi hotspots at our office locations:
Headquarters: 1225 Sage Street, Gering, NE
Mitchell: 1208 Center Avenue, Mitchell, NE
Torrington: 1839 Main Street, Torrington, WY
Laramie: 1482 Commerce Drive Unit M, Laramie, WY Coming Soon
Yuma: 304 South Main Street, Yuma, CO
And in collaboration with a customer:
Lone Pine Campground: 901 South Elm Street, Lusk, WY
Thank you for being our customer. We’re all in this together.
Matt Larsen, CEO