Case Studies

Tyke Hart – Visionary Broadband

Fiber construction director leads rapid broadband expansion out west

As new details emerge about the environmental impact of toxic lead cables, fiber is looking better and better.

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation revealed there are at least 2,000 toxic lead cables, and possibly many more, spread across the U.S., thanks to AT&T and other telecoms.

In contrast to their lead and copper ancestors, fiber cables contain mainly glass and silica. And rather than forging connections with electrical signals, which raises the risk of sparks catching fire, they send data at the speed of light. They are reportedly the most energy-efficient cable technology out there, according to a study by Europacable.

On the leading edge of the fiber revolution is Visionary Broadband, a Wyoming-based internet service provider to the Mountain West region. And overseeing all the construction involved in Visionary’s broadband expansion is Tyke Hart, the company’s director of fiber construction. He also advises the engineering side of the business on fiber technology.

“We run fiber to residential, commercial—the full gamut,” Hart says. “We are doing everything we can to get fiber to our customers.”

In fact, Visionary, which has around 150 employees, last summer announced a new round of funding from the Chicago private equity firm GTCR that helped the ISP keep building new fiber networks across Wyoming, Colorado and Montana.

“When I got here to Visionary, I came with my understanding of fiber and the engineering roles I’ve had in my career,” Hart says. “I was one of the first in the fiber group and proceeded to do engineering contract administration, contract inspections, then hired another engineer, and now we have a team of about 30 people.”

Wyoming’s future is fiber

Lately, Hart has been working on Visionary’s large community buildout projects in Wyoming. The company is bringing in multiple points of connectivity to the outside world, building in redundancy over the wireless network through several towers.

“We are ringing these towns,” he says. “That means that we lay our network in a ring configuration around the town, then we take laterals to certain areas from electric cabinets, so we have our switches and modems in place and that is all built into this redundancy network.”

Visionary’s Wyoming buildouts involve a hybrid system, and he expects to complete this entire network within the next few years. He says the effort is an example of Visionary’s focus on fast-paced expansion over the next decade.

“We build our networks with the way fiber was originally intended to be used 50 years ago,” Hart says. “But these are future-focused projects—they’re about being able to serve currently underserved areas. They’re examples of our focus on our customers’ current needs and future needs.”

Bringing Wi-Fi to Western schools and homes

Visionary has also undertaken some smaller community buildout projects in Wyoming and Colorado, and Hart is hard at work on those, too. The community buildouts target individual homes and businesses rather than ringing an entire town.

There are already five such initiatives underway or finished in Wyoming and six completed in Colorado, with two more in the pipeline.

“We have taken fiber to the homes in these communities already,” Hart says. “Some of the communities in Wyoming are completed, but we have some in Wyoming and Colorado that are still ongoing, with expected completion hopefully by the end of the year.”

With Hart’s help, the company has delivered fiber connections to state, county and municipal buildings, schools and families’ homes across Wyoming and Colorado. It’s all going according to plan, according to Hart, who foresees the buildouts picking up pace over the next few years.

Fiber for the next 100 years

Hart, who started his career 43 years ago working for the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company when it was part of AT&T, has enjoyed bringing Visionary’s vastly safer and more efficient fiber networks to towns and cities across the region.

He’s been with Visionary for more than five years now, and he likes the company’s focus on customer and employee satisfaction as well as its emphasis on redundancy in its fiber networks. He says the company, which was founded in 1994, retains a startup culture, with a willingness to take risks and innovate.

With 12 direct reports under him, Hart says he has “a great team of people” at Visionary and wouldn’t trade his current role for another. Every day, he gets to go to work delivering technology that he hopes will last the next 100 years—and that, a century from now, won’t be making headlines or causing headaches, thanks to its efficiency and safety.

“We are not afraid to think out of the box and look into the industry to figure out new ways of doing things,” he says. “We don’t build cookie-cutter stuff; we look to best service our customers and areas, and we customize what we do to make it work best for them.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VII 2023 Edition here.

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