TCT celebrates fiber success, brings UW athletes to town

Nathan Oster

Greybull area residents mingled with some of their favorite University of Wyoming basketball players, indulged in Yoder donuts and pizza from Up in Smoke and siezed opportunities to learn more about and sign up on the spot for faster, more reliable internet service during a pop-up celebration hosted by TCT on Saturday.

A leading communications provider across Wyoming and Montana since 1956, TCT is "about 80%" finished with the installation of Fiber to the Home (FTTH) infrastructure in Greybull, with only the far north and far south ends of town remaining, according to CEO Richard Wardell.

The FTTH technology, which is replacing copper, can deliver blazing internet speeds of up to 1 Gbps. The company says on its website that FTTH will ensure that "those who live and do business in Greybull have access to the best internet service for today's needs but also meet any demands that will come in the future."

Staff members were on hand to provide an overview of the new technology — and specifically, how it contrasts with what it's replacing.

"Over the years TCT has worked to provide reliable Internet to our entire serving area," said Wardell. "This has proven to be difficult as ever-changing FCC guidelines have required additional builds in areas that were once considered served.  

"Currently we are focusing on Greybull with a tremendous investment in upgrading our current facility, we continue to upgrade fiber facilities trying to balance the use of company funds and utilizing broadband grant funds to expedite the updates as well as build the areas that are difficult to make a business case to fund."

Meet the Pokes

A bonus for attendees was meeting members of the University of Wyoming men's and women's basketball teams. 

Bryan Terry, who works for TCT, used — a site that matches companies looking to build their brand with athletes trying to monetize their name, image and likeness — to line up appearances by Cowboys Kenny Foster, Brendan Wenzel and Caden Powell and Cowgirls Allyson Fertig and Emily Mellema.  

Of the five, Fertig is the only Wyoming native, having played her high school ball at 3A Douglas.  While she lists Glendo as her hometown, her family lived in Cody for a short time so she passed through Greybull often.

"Never for any length of time, though," she said.  "That's why this is such a great experience — it gives us all a chance to explore and see the state from a little different point of view."

A 6-4 junior center, Fertig averaged 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game for the Cowgirls, who finished 23-11, losing in the championship game of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.  She made the all-Mountain West team.

"We had a good season — and playing in the postseason is fun, no matter if it's the big tournament or not," she said.

Mellema, a 5-11 junior guard, appeared in all 34 games, averaging 6.3 points and 1.7 assists per game. 

Both are optimistic about the season to come.

"We will have to replace three starters, but a lot of girls who saw a lot of time are coming back," said Mellema, who hails from Washington state.

The UW men's team wasn't as fortunate last year, suffering through a 9-21 campaign. Foster, Wenzel and Powell believe the team's fortunes are going to turn around in 2023-24.

"Pokes fans should be excited because we've got a good team coming up," said Foster, a 6-5 senior guard and native of Denver.  "Last year, we had a sinking boat and there was no salvaging it.  It was hard for everyone, with pieces that didn't fit and all the injuries.  Everything you could image going badly, went badly."

Foster said the returning players have spent the last four weeks practicing with the newcomers. "They're all genuinely good guys," he said of the imports. "If we can all stay healthy and mesh well as a team ... I think Pokes fans will be surprised by what they see."

He appeared in 17 games, starting three, and averaged 4.8 points per game.

Wenzel and Powell both hail from Texas.  Wenzel, a 6-7 senior guard, saw the most playing time of the three.  He appeared in 24 games, starting 21, and averaged 7.9 points and 3.8 boards per contest.  Powell, a 6-10 sophomore forward, averaged 1.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 28 contests. 

Greybull struck all three of them as "pretty small" — at least compared to what they're accustomed — but at the same time, they enjoyed the scenery on the way up and always look forward to meeting the fans, wherever it might be.

"The support we receive in this state is really nice," said Foster. "We have great fans."

Doug MacMartin of Greybull was among the Cowboy Joe Clubbers who stopped in for a visit.  "It's nice to be able to come out and meet them personally — sitting in the stands at games, you don't get that opportunity," he said.