Mammoth Networks Big on Connecting the West - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 363

Summer is the time for the Mountain Connect Broadband Development Conference, one of the events that Christopher is sure to attend every year. This year, it was held in Dillon, Colorado, and while he was enjoying the scenery, he collected a series of interviews. This week we hear from Brian Worthen, CEO of Mammoth Networks.

With its home base in Wyoming, Mammoth serves locations in eleven western states. They primarily provide wholesale middle mile service, but the company also offers last mile connectivity in select locations. Brian describes how, over time, Mammoth has developed a system of adopting combinations of technology to get the job done. They provide service in areas that are often sparsely populated, in areas where the geology varies, and Mammoth adjusts to the needs of their diverse customers.

The company received an award at Mountain Connect for their work on Colorado’s Project THOR. In this interview, Brian describes their involvement with the project and with several other local projects in the state. Christopher and his guest talk about cooperatives and their expanding role in delivering high-quality Internet access. They consider which levels of government are best suited to offer financial assistance to broadband initiatives, especially in rural communities, and discuss the potential for Low Earth Orbit Satellites to contribute to universal broadband access.

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

If you're considering Mountain Connect for next year, check out this short promotional video:


Brian Worthen: Communities that put emphasis on it now are much further ahead than the communities that just simply quote they are going to do it in the future.

Lisa Gonzalez: Welcome to episode 363 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Mountain Connect is one of Christopher's favorite events. He and other experts, advocates, and professionals gather together in Colorado in the summers, and if he's lucky, Christopher can record a few interviews for the podcast. This week we're sharing his conversation with Brian Worthen, CEO of Mammoth Networks. Brian and Christopher discuss the different services Mammoth offers and some of the discoveries they've made about operating in sparsely populated places where the geography varies. They also discuss some of the projects that Mammoth has been working on, including Project THOR, which will connect existing and new fiber in northwest Colorado for better connectivity in the region. Other topics the guys discuss include federal versus local rural broadband efforts, Connect America Funding, utilities and cooperatives, and low earth orbit satellites. Here's Christopher with Mammoth Networks' Brian Worthen recorded in Dillon, Colorado, at 2019's Mountain Connect.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and today I'm talking to Brian Worthen with Mammoth Networks.

Brian Worthen: Yes, that's correct, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: That was a question because all of a sudden I just think of you as Mammoth. I know that you're not a muffin from Perkins. Mammoth Networks. Welcome to the show, Brian.

Brian Worthen: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: You come out of Wyoming, but you're spread out on a lot of the West it seems like. So just give us a sense of what Mammoth does.

Brian Worthen: Mammoth is a wholesaler to other ISPs. It's WISPs, CLECs, small cable companies, small phone companies. We've actually carved out this niche over the last 10 years helping people navigate the rural broadband market. They've been in this position where there's a slight amount of competition, but they haven't had access — our customers haven't had access to affordable backhaul options to major peering points, to peer with Netflix or Apple or Microsoft, and they've been limited in choices. And so, we've been working for the last 10 years to expand on those choices, most often actually leasing our customers underlying transport from multiple entities and piecing that together in sort of a patchwork quilt-type environment.

Christopher Mitchell: And so, do you do any last mile services yourself in any situations?

Brian Worthen: Yeah, we actually grew up in Wyoming, and we started with five dial up lines in the basement. And so, we embraced DSL and wireless in 2000, so we developed both those platforms at the same time. And what's interesting about that is it's forced us to be agnostic with regards to the technology, and we've always looked at that as a benefit in the past. Now, the impetus is more towards fiber and less emphasis on copper, but in our eyes it's still a hybrid solution in rural America where there's fiber in the core or the business corridor and wireless serving the county area.

Christopher Mitchell: Now when you're doing these long haul or the middle mile networks, you're using a combination of technologies, right?

Brian Worthen: Yeah. We're utilizing utility fiber, we're using Department of Transportation fiber, pieces that have been laid before by other CLECs, and obviously the phone company fiber that was funded years and years ago and that exists in the ground.

Christopher Mitchell: So what are the prices like in Wyoming? Are you able to be cost competitive with, you know, the sort of more metro areas or suburban areas in terms of those long haul prices?

Brian Worthen: I think in Wyoming and in all rural markets, there's actually an issue with the amount of customer base you can put on a network, and so you cannot focus on businesses or residential, especially in Wyoming with less than 600,000 people. We have to take all types of business — oil field, coal mines, you know, the downtown business districts, residential — and we're having to use a combination of fiber, wireless, copper, anything we can do to reach out to that customer. And without that entire customer base, rural America can't actually stand on its own.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. So one of the networks that we've been fascinated by and we're going to have an upcoming episode talking to is Rio Blanco in the northwest part of Colorado, quite rural. You've been involved with that project, first providing backhaul, you said, so tell us what you're doing in that situation.

Brian Worthen: Yeah. In Colorado there's a really interesting phenomenon going on where municipalities, cities, counties are getting into the broadband game. Rio Blanco is interesting because they hired us to handle their backhaul and we built the route diverse network through Rio Blanco County to serve them with backbone. And the take rate in that county has exceeded far exceeded anything that Google experienced or a number of providers have experienced, and I think a lot of that because of the size of the communities. The word got out, there was a need for everyone to participate, and they did.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, it's crazy. My understanding was they forecast, what, like 35-40 percent and they had 80 percent-ish in the first year.

Brian Worthen: Yeah, they achieved 80 percent take rate really quickly.

Christopher Mitchell: That's unheard of.

Brian Worthen: That's right.

Christopher Mitchell: So it's a good thing you guys were there to be able to make sure they could haul all that out to major Internet exchange points.

Brian Worthen: Yeah, and we were excited to be a part of that project. The fact that we can take them to major peering points and hand them Netflix and Apple and Microsoft and other peers was really beneficial to the community, and it gave us a win as well to be involved with that.

Christopher Mitchell: What does it mean to do that in terms of connecting? If we just use that as an example or if there's a better example that you'd like to use, what do you have to do in order to get a fiber or some sort of high quality, you know, pipe, effectively — it might be a wireless solution — but something to get to them? Do you just sit down with a map and GIS layers and look at where you can lease fiber? Do you start building it all? I mean, were you already very close to them? Like, how do you go about doing that?

Brian Worthen: Mammoth has been beneficial on a number of fronts for us and understandin the wholesale landscape. We still have this retail operation in Wyoming, but Mammoth has given us an ability to understand more of what's going on in the American West. And over the years, we've not only picked up knowledge from employees of other companies, we have people on staff that used to service the old Touch America network in Montana, we have people on staff that understood Colorado rather well. And so, when we put all of our heads together, we started mapping out this fiber infrastructure that really is unmapped, and the larger entities, what's been known as the larger ISPs, because it's such a competitive environment between teleco and cable, these aren't published, but we've been able to piece that together with just logic and sometimes we have to order and trial and error. But we've made a map of the Rockies of what's good for redundancy and what routes exist, and it's shocking how much there actually is in the ground that's underutilized. We've been surprised by that.

Christopher Mitchell: So when you actually have to build, are you able to get on poles or are you mostly going underground? What do you have to look at to get this done?

Brian Worthen: We're pivoting again this year. I think this is our sixth pivot since 1994.

Christopher Mitchell: A couple more and the NBA might accuse you of taking a travel.

Brian Worthen: That's right. That's what keeps us young and keeps us challenged and makes work interesting. But we're on our sixth pivot this year. Three or four years ago, we just had three or four trucks in the field and now we have 30 bucket trucks, we have splicing trailers, and whatnot. And right now we're going through this process, and we have for the last 18 months, of working on Right-of-Way easement, franchise agreements, and whatnot. So we're just now getting the point where we're going to be building more fiber, not only in the last mile, but in a middle mile format.

Christopher Mitchell: So, I mean, I think most people think of Wyoming, they think of the Grand Tetons, they think mountain passes. What is it actually like building in Wyoming though? Is it just a mixture of things or is there a predominant way that you construct?

Brian Worthen: Wyoming's a mixture. In the northwest corner, you have the Tetons and Yellowstone, and it's very mountainous and high elevation. In the southwest it's desert, high desert. And in the East, it's rolling plains and it's high country. So actually, it's not too bad to build, especially to build wireless, and then to build fiber, Wyoming's accommodated fiber builds rather well. They opened up WYDOT right away for fiber builders, and they came up with a concept where the conduit could be shared or subleased out from the original build. So they're keeping the Right-of-Way clean but allowing for fiber expansion, which ultimately translates into cyber expansion, wireless broadband expansion. But the terrain is really similar to Colorado. You know, Colorado is two different types of terrain. There's mountains, and then there's the plains to the east. And so, Colorado is like that, northern New Mexico, southeast Montana, so these are good places to build. You know, with our efforts in the western slope of Colorado, we're seeing more challenging terrain and we've started adopting more technologies such as LTE, EBS, CBRS and deploying technologies that penetrate tree coverage and deliver service in very mountainous regions.

Christopher Mitchell: So I wanna switch to talking about the word "utility," which for some ISPs makes them nervous. You know, everyone has a different, I think, definition of what it means, but you've given this a lot of thought over the years. And so I'm curious, when I say the word "utility" in relation to broadband Internet access, what do you think of?

Brian Worthen: Utilities are just now getting into the broadband game. Longmont was a good example. They built that fiber network in Longmont, Colorado, using their own utility lines and access to their poles. You're seeing a transformation right now because utilities are seeing this as a cooperative effort, broadband as a cooperative effort, just like power was back in the day or water or — my brother and his neighborhood, just three or four years ago, he and his neighbors got together and built their own gas line to meet the gas company. Before that, they were on propane. So this co-op exists, this cooperative effort still exists. And what I believe is the utilities are now looking at broadband as a way to not only monitor their substations, monitor meters, but deliver to their co-op members because their members are frustrated, just like most of rural America's frustrated. There's not a lot of investment from the telco. The cable companies would rather spend time in the Denver's and Seattle's and Phoenix's of the world, or of the nation. But the bottom line is the rural communities, because most utilities are co-op, their members are asking for their help, just like in some communities, their constituents are asking for them to get into that game. And so I actually believe — and when we talked last year, I believed utilities had a big play, and that's mostly because the USDA and RUS programs provide 20 year lending to utilities. To compete with a company that has 20 year lending — I can borrow on a three year, a five year, a 10 year span, but that's a different ballgame altogether. And so, they do have a unique advantage right now because they have poles — easements are obviously an issue, where they don't have a utility easement, they only have a power easement, but some states are changing that. Indiana's changing that. Colorado just introduced legislation to change that. So I think there's gonna be a turning point here shortly where utilities are getting more in the game or — and we've had a number of discussions with utilities lately — where they partner with someone like us to power the network. After all, they're a power company. IP change management notifications, cell phone providers being on the network, that's a different ball game. And s,o I could see a number of utilities either getting into that arena or partnering with someone like us.

Christopher Mitchell: So let me ask you this. As someone — this is totally coming out of left field. I don't know if I should say left field or right field. It's coming from far away though. You have a really good sense, I think, of not only what's happening out there and how some areas there's good service [and] many areas we need a lot of investment in places like Wyoming and in the rural parts of Wyoming. I think there's a lot of expectation that in 2020 we're going to see a lot of candidates running on this, on broadband because it's a popular issueto at least talk about. I have kind of a counterintuitive reaction that a lot of the people that I admire I think would disagree with, which is, like, I feel like Wyoming just set up a pretty good program that I think you like for how they're getting some of the funds out there. They're taking it seriously. Most states are investing I think too little, but states are investing more. I don't know that we need the federal government to try to, like, figure out how to create whole new departments or figuring out, like, massive new programs. I'd like to see the candidates in 2020 fixing other problems that only the federal government can deal with because I think the utilities, the states can take a big chunk out of this problem. What do you think? Do you think I'm crazy?

Brian Worthen: I think you're spot on, and I actually think it's more local than that. So there's a city effort, there's a county effort, there's a state effort, and a federal. The federal effort, the mapping is a problem. You know, we're funding programs, like CAF II was just funded for areas of the country, and you know, we actually bid five different counties in Wyoming. And we served in most of those counties almost 80 percent on average, and there's some blocks we served 100 percent of.

Christopher Mitchell: You mean before that auction?

Brian Worthen: Before the auction.

Christopher Mitchell: Before the Connect America Fund Auction.

Brian Worthen: Ultimately the U.S. government is funding areas where there actually is broadband, and these are areas where we provide 50 and 100 meg services already wirelessly, 15 miles out of town. And it was frustrating to watch because of the mapping, and the most frustrating part about that is providers like us send in accurate maps to within three feet, right — it's all GPS coordinates — twice a year. And so that information obviously is getting distorted or is stale. And so funding additional federal programs I don't think is the answer, and I think it's actually a hyperlocal type answer. The involvement with the local community and partnering with them in such a way to get access to Right-of-Way — everybody gets the same agreement. I'm not saying there's some uniqueness there. But in the end, the providers of broadband in the future are going to be four different types of companies. They're going to be a cable company that actually wants to spend money in the local market, they're going to be a utility, they're going to be a city or municipality, or they're going to be a competitive provider like us, and it'll be some mixture of those. The phone company will be out of that. You're starting to see the phone companies sell off their exchanges. But it involves hyperlocal communication, collaboration. Some cities are utilities, therefore you can have access to their poles. Some cities really are beholden or supportive of their local cable provider. And so the broadband of the future is going to be controlled at a local level in the collaborative environment, and the cities and counties will be a huge part of that, you know, a huge driver for that. And in some cases, you know, the larger the community, there's going to be some more lobbying for retention of this duopoly that exists, but I think that funding's going to happen at even a local level, not just a state level. There's a lot of states putting funds together to fund broadband where none exists. We just went into Ophir, Colorado. We pulled a one gig circuit into Ophir, and the community actually opted to do a two mile fiber build in from this fiber line. And so, this is a community of 70 homes — no gas station, no grocery store — and it's really mind blowing to think there's communities like that that still exist. And those communities are being overlooked at the federal level, but the state level they're being funded, in Wyoming, Colorado, and others.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, I have to say, a part of my reaction, I feel like if this was a period of the 70s and 80s where interest rates were really high and you couldn't — like, local governments and the states couldn't borrow at reasonable rates to set up these programs, then it might be different. Then you look to the federal government. Right now, I feel like there's ways — I mean, in Minnesota, we've seen counties that are working with local providers, often cooperatives, to extend their networks from the neighboring county over into theirs. And the cost is quite expensive for a county that has 7,000 people in it. Bonding for a few million dollars to expand broadband is a major deal, but they're able to do it.

Brian Worthen: Right, and they're putting importance on it. That's the big thing.

Christopher Mitchell: That's I think the key. Yeah, exactly. I just feel like there's so many people who are like, this is so important, we need the federal government to do it. And the reaction should be, this is so important, e can do it without having to worry about how the federal government might get it wrong. All the incredible paperwork one has to go through to access that money. I feel like there's all kinds of challenges. And you know, I'm not a knee jerk — well, I'm a little bit of a knee jerk, anti federal government kind of person, but I just feel like, you know, there's so many things that only Washington can deal with trying to heal and fix in this country, and it should be focused on those. I'm worried that states feel like they're just looking at the federal government to do it for them when they could be doing things themselves.

Brian Worthen: I can't tell you how many meetings I've been in at a city or a county or a state level where I hear the word "they are going to do this," and I ask who are they? There's two crowds in the broadband world. There's a crowd that says we're just going to build this and rolls up their sleeves and does it. And then there's another crowd and they're composed of the uneducated rural markets that assume somebody out there is vying for that, is wanting to create a business or a broadband plant in their community. And actually, broadband in rural America is going to be a hedge against urbanization and it's going to be focused on farming, first responders, you know, the most rural of businesses that have to be in those locations. And communities that put emphasis on it now are much further ahead than the communities that just simply quote, they are going to do it in the future.

Christopher Mitchell: So what's changed in the last year or two that kind of blows your mind? You know, if you look back to our conversation a year ago, which was very focused on utilities — and for people who are wondering, it was a conversation you and I had that wasn't recorded unfortunately. So, you know, we talked about number of these issues and I'm curious, you know, has anything popped up that that surprises you going in a direction you didn't expect?

Brian Worthen: I think there's a couple things. One is the advent and introduction of millimeter wave. It's huge. There's this whole 5G umbrella that covers so many different technologies, but the actual technology around millimeter wave and the 60 to 80 gigahertz range is allowing us to feed wireless towers 15 miles out of town, five miles out of town with high bandwidth.

Christopher Mitchell: I though those ranges didn't work on those. So, this is where I get a little bit confused. I mean, at that point I thought you had to deal with ⁠— the waves are so small. Are you just able to amplify it at such an extent?

Brian Worthen: Regenerate. It's like fiber, right? On the end you regenerate it. We've got some microwave shots up from Rock Springs to Pinedale that are 60 miles using licensed frequencies in the 11 gigahertz and 6 gigahertz range.

Christopher Mitchell: But those aren't using millimeter waves, are they?

Brian Worthen: No, no. I'm thinking of one tower specifically. It's actually 15 miles east of my office. We bought an easement on a private landowner's plot and we put up a tower, and at night I think it pumps 1.6 gigs to the Internet at peak. So it's a very rural area and purely purely residential housing, and it's got that kind of traffic. Well I can't backhaul that with traditional licensed microwave, and so I've actually found a high point within three and a quarter miles to that that specific tower and we're feeding that with 10 gigs synchronous. So it's fiber-like speeds over millimeter wave, and that technology has just come into play in the last 12 months.

Christopher Mitchell: So when we talk about 5G and the challenges, and a lot of us are talking about the way the 5G small cells are set up in suburban neighborhoods and things like that, it really only goes like hundreds of feet. Is that a different wavelength or is that a power issue.

Brian Worthen: It's a multipoint issue, and it's also the nature of the wavelength itself. And so, you're going to see millimeter wave in a downtown environment or along a street and a multipoint configuration lasting no more than an eighth of a mile is just the nature of the beast. And so the fact that so many communities are now looking at this, that's another big change. The FCC's addressed that with their small cell order, but so many communities are actually enacting ordinances because they've not been prepared for this. There's going to be a wave of small cells that are on literally every block throughout the community and it's going to feed cellular, it's going to feed data to the surrounding areas, it's going to feed other towers. That's what wireless is now, is cell towers feeding other cell towers. There's one out of five that are fiber fed and the other four come off that tower. There's this daisy chain effect, but in order to achieve that with millimeter wave, your point to point is three and a quarter, three and a half miles maybe, and then your multipoint is simply limited to an eighth of a mile max.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay. The last question that I have that I feel like is the biggest challenge for me on wireless solutions is I feel like it cannot be a carrier of last resort because there's always people who are in an inconvenient location relative to the tower and cannot get service. And the question in my mind is the alternative, if we're going to embrace that technology as the main technology for an area, do we just say that those houses' value will go to zero and those people will move? Or am I underestimating the ability of wireless ultimately serve 100 percent of people in a given area?

Brian Worthen: I think fixed wireless broadband, which is what I assume you're talking about ⁠—

Christopher Mitchell: That's right.

Brian Worthen: ⁠— is highly evolved at this point, but it's only going to get better. Of course, in this world, everything is fiber first, but you cannot build fiber to every farmhouse. I visited someone in Kansas recently and saw them doing just that at ⁠—

Christopher Mitchell: You wanna make a bet? Like, 15 years, 20 years?

Brian Worthen: We could, we could, but you know, within our company, we view wireless as a stop gap until fiber technologies get cheaper, Right-of-Way gets easier to access, and easements are perfected. And so, it's a great stop gap solution for rural America.

Christopher Mitchell: But you do see it then able to, overtime ⁠— I mean, it doesn't surprise me to hear you say that because five years ago I was a skeptic. I mean, at that point I would say most people's interactions with WISPs were the kind of WISPs who are well meaning people who are a bit technical and put up something to try and solve a problem and then expanded perhaps beyond their capacity. And so people often associate with WISPs a sense of, "oh, it's going to be less than a megabit and it's going to be, you know, unreliable." That is not the situation for a lot of WISPs today, particularly ones that have a reputation like yours, like Vistabeam, you know, Netblazer, Starry, obviously in San Francisco Monkeybrains I've written a lot about. So it's not surprising to hear you say that. I still sort of wonder about the ability for it to, like, hit that person on the wrong side of the hill.

Brian Worthen: Yeah. There's always going to be that challenge because the person wants to live on that side of the hill and there's a certain quality of life associated with that. And broadband is a necessity. But these are the same folks that have overhead power lines, and so sooner or later they'll have overhead fiber into their location, even if it can't be trenched in, at the cost of trenching or underground. The fact of the matter is, there's people placing their homes where they want to live, and there's a certain rural residential market that wants acreage, they want to be spread out, and Fiber-to-the-Home in those situations is not readily available now. It will be, but in our view, the towers of the future will feed these customers until fiber gets there. And so, you've got a fiber fed tower along a main county road that can feed customers 15 miles, both directions, and you're going to see in the next 24 months gigabit speeds over wireless.

Christopher Mitchell: Really?

Brian Worthen: It's going to happen.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay.

Brian Worthen: It just requires more towers.

Christopher Mitchell: I want to ask you about low earth orbit satellites. And I'm curious, is the worst case scenario that low earth orbit satellites are basically good enough to kind of fracture the market to make it harder for you to get the take rates you need to be able to make these investments, but it's not good enough to solve the problem for everyone? Is that a potential scenario here coming out?

Brian Worthen: I want to talk about that in a second, but I want to go actually back to your last question. I've seen something interesting in wireless in the last 12 months. You talked about wireless providers being questionable or the the market not trusting them because of past performance, and that's because wireless providers traditionally have been paging guys, two way radio guys. They've not been internet providers. And so, for us to offer wireless is actually interesting because there's a lot of providers out there that are just now starting up wireless ISPs with no IP knowledge, no technical knowledge. They're tower companies, they own structures, and they're doing it because their neighbors want that. And so, there's actually not a lot of fixed wireless ISPs that are of size. But the most interesting thing to me in the last year in the wireless space is, in addition to millimeter wave, is the fact that small telcos are getting in that space and so are utilities.

Christopher Mitchell: Right.

Brian Worthen: So for those companies to start adopting fixed wireless technology, they're realizing the power of reaching out into rural markets.

Christopher Mitchell: Absolutely. And it's the same philosophy in many ways from what you were mentioning earlier in terms of seeing it as we're not going to do this forever perhaps. We're going to reevaluate maybe after five years.

Brian Worthen: Right.

Christopher Mitchell: So low earth orbit satellites.

Brian Worthen: I think low earth orbit satellites have potential to disrupt the market. We're just now seeing in the wireless world, people moving off satellite or WildBlue or, you know, Hughes, or other technologies.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, the big fixed geostationary satellites.

Brian Worthen: Where they are paying a fixed fee per month and then overages, which in an environment where you're watching all your content online and potentially in the near future gaming online, that's not a longterm viable solution, satellite communications, where there's charges for overages. This low earth solution with that number of satellites has a lot of potential to disrupt the market, but their pricing plan has to be fixed and it has to be heavy download. If it's not, it's not going to change the market. But it has a potential to better serve rural America, which there's guys like us trying to do our best in rural America funding stuff out of our own pocket. And there's 4,000 WISPs in the U.S. There's a number of people working towards that end, and that market's going to be just disrupted. There's security, there's latency, and then there's the fact that this satellite technology may actually delve into the old model of charging for overages or charging for too much bandwidth, and that remains to be seen.

Christopher Mitchell: I just realized that I meant to start this off by asking you about the award that you were just a part of winning, with Project THOR. So you want to tell us a little bit about Project THOR and the award that Jeff Galvinski and Mountain Connect just bestowed upon you?

Brian Worthen: Yeah, I was excited about that. It was a surprise. As a provider, especially a private provider, we in the past have focused on profit and using that profit to expand our business, and it's all about reinvestment. But we chose to participate in municipal and public-private partnerships because we could either sit on the sidelines or work together. And so, our first public-private partnership was in Routt County in Steamboat, and we partnered with the city, the county, the utility, the hospital, and the school district and worked with them to build an eight mile fiber run. And we had diverse routes out of the community, and it was the first time that's happened. So this ski community at peak season could process credit cards, no matter if one direction is down or another. And in the summertime that that's construction season and you always worry about your fiber in construction season cause they're along the highway. So, we've been working in Routt County for three or four years on this project and achieved a certain level of reliability that we're very proud of. This expanded over the last two or three years into Project THOR. And so, we came up with the concept of using lit services and dark services along a circular path from Denver north through Routt County down to Grand Junction and back to Denver and involving the communities in that. And we're simply operating the network and allowing them to be an open access network where the communities then can be a provider themselves. They can choose to partner with a local provider, they can sell it to the local cable company. They have their choice in doing what they want. We're just operating the network for them. But today, there's nine communities that have signed up for this to operate a hundred gig ring through northern Colorado, northwest Colorado. So we're excited to be a part of the project. It's going to be a hefty amount of work over the next 12 months, but it was exciting also to see Jeff give us props during Mountain Connect this year.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. Well Brian, I really appreciate getting caught up. I really admire the way I think that you take an all hands on board approach in recognizing that, you know, if there's a state as vast as Wyoming we don't have to sort of just pick one solution and go with it, but that we can work together and find different ways of getting this job done.

Brian Worthen: Yeah. We view broadband in rural markets, in Wyoming specifically, as sprinkling. You know, we want to sprinkle and see where the seeds sprout and then we want to continue to feed that. So, that's how we operate our business. And we think about things as affecting our neighbors or impacting our neighbors positively, and we're excited to be a part of that. You know, when we talk about this internally, we don't talk about, hey, we provide broadband to rural America. We're helping ranchers trade cattle, we're helping firefighters fight fires, we're helping planes land. That's the way we talk about it, and that's why my staff is so excited about broadband and they will be.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Brian Worthen from Mammoth Networks visiting with Christopher at the 2019 Mountain Connect conference in Dillon, Colorado. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at muninetworks.orgs/broadbandbits. Email us at with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @communitynets. Follow stories on Twitter. The handle is @muninetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and the other podcasts from ILSR, Building Local Power and the Local Energy Rules podcast. You can access them wherever you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter at While you're there, please take a moment to donate. Your support in any amount helps keep us going. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons, and thank you for listening to episode 363 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.