Microsoft will pay for free public Wi-Fi downtown | Local News

CHEYENNE – Cheyenne’s historic depot and its plaza are getting a free public Wi-Fi network courtesy of Microsoft. 

The software giant, which runs a data center west of town, is donating $150,000 to the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce Foundation to build a network serving the plaza and the entities within the depot itself, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

The chamber is already seeking a contractor for the installation job, Chamber vice president Stephanie Meisner-Maggard said. The chamber’s goal is to have the network online this summer. 

If there’s money left over, Meisner-Maggard the chamber could also extend the network down 15th Street to serve the Cheyenne Farmers’ Market. 

Microsoft announced the donation, which accomplishes one of six objectives for Mayor Marian Orr’s Broadband Task Force, at the Chamber’s monthly luncheon Friday.

Microsoft Philanthropies General Manager Kate Behncken said the gift reflected Cheyenne’s emphasis on becoming a more connected city, its “focus on digital skills” and its “desire to make sure its workforce is future-ready.”

Mayor Marian Orr also spoke and thanked the company for its investment. 

“I know that this is just the beginning,” she said. “And how better to pilot this Wi-Fi project than at the depot, and then learn from that and take it to other areas of the community as well.”

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle first reported talks of a Microsoft-funded network in April.

Eric Trowbridge, who runs the Array coding school downtown and led the task force, said then that a free network around the Depot could mean more people streaming and sharing videos of summer concerts on the plaza. 

He said the city government might also use it to collect more data and offer “smart city” applications for residents. 

The service’s speed and capacity is not yet clear. 

But Trowbridge said the pilot project is win, regardless. 

“I’m curious to hear more details with exactly what the speeds are,” he said. “But this is a really great step forward. It might be ‘Phase 1’ initially, but it’s finally an idea that didn’t die on the table, and we’ll see some version of it and work through it.”

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