Federal Officials Agree With Montana’s Plan To Improve Broadband Availability


The federal government approved Montana’s plan to even out differences in broadband access. This means the state can now compete for more federal funding to help close the digital gap.

The state’s plan to improve digital skills, access, and affordability was passed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Tuesday. This is part of the federal $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act.

Montana’s Digital Opportunity Plan mentioned barriers to digital access, such as the lack of broadband, the high cost of services, the inability to get devices, and a lack of digital skills. The two biggest problems were access and cost. To help close the digital gap, the state will use the plan as a guide. Montana has some of the worst internet services in the country, and it’s especially bad in rural areas.

The NTIA says that the state used a little more than $600,000 from the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program to make the plan.

Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement that one of the main goals of his administration is to improve digital literacy and bring broadband to parts of Montana that aren’t currently covered.

Gianforte said, “Not having broadband access shouldn’t keep Montanans from getting a good-paying job, going to school, or getting affordable, high-quality health care.”

The Digital Opportunity Plan and the BEAD Five Year Action Plan were both written by the Department of Administration. The state sent these plans along with its first requests for $629 million in government funds to connect unserved communities across the state to high-speed fiber. The plan said that the internet Equity Access and Deployment Program (BEAD) would pay for most of the work to make internet more accessible.

The state agreed to $309 million in grants for internet projects in 2022. The grants were paid for with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Montana Broadband Office is run by the Department of Administration. On Wednesday, they said that the grants that were approved with this money had been “awarded and are under contract with the respective awardees.” It was too late for publication because the department did not answer a question about the state of these projects.

Broadband access is needed to reach the state’s goals in many areas, such as the economy, workforce development, education, health care, civic and social involvement, and providing other important services, as explained in the Digital Opportunity Plan.

The plan says that the main reason some Montanans can’t get high-speed internet is that it’s not available to them.

More than 70% of the elderly, veterans, and racial and ethnic minorities that the plan calls “target communities” said they did not have access to high-speed internet. They also said that not having enough internet choices was a big problem.

The state also wants to provide services to people in rural areas, those with low incomes, those who are in state prisons, those who are disabled, and those who speak a language other than English. The plan says that more people in these areas don’t have access to the internet than in any other group in the state.

Based on the approved plan, there are a total of 19,208 areas that are not served by broadband and 7,826 areas that are not served at all in rural parts of the state. There are also more older people in rural areas who either can’t afford broadband or don’t know how to use it to connect to the internet.

Most counties in Montana have some kind of internet. However, less than 60% of people in Rosebud, Glacier, Powell, Mineral, and Roosevelt counties use broadband from satellites, cell phone data, or DSL.

Affordability is the second most common reason Montanans don’t have broadband. According to the Montana Broadband Office, 17% of Montanans who don’t have high speed internet say that it’s too expensive for them. In 2021, BroadbandNow ranked the state as the 49th best for getting cheap internet plans. Sixty-two percent of families could get plans for $60 a month or less. The state was also last in terms of how easy it was to get high-speed internet.

The state wants to use government money from BEAD to connect areas that don’t have broadband to the internet. Internet service providers are starting to ask the Communications Advisory Commission to pre-qualify projects that will be supported by BEAD. At the end of the year, the committee plans to choose projects and turn in a full proposal.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.