Montana Moves Closer to Closing Digital Divide
Governor Greg Gianforte today announced the state is now accepting applications for up to $266 million in ConnectMT funds to expand access to reliable broadband and close the digital divide throughout Montana.
Last May, Gov. Gianforte announced the landmark investment, signing Senate Bill 297 into law to connect unserved and underserved Montana communities.
“Too many of our communities, particularly in our rural and frontier areas, lack access to reliable broadband. That’s why we’ve made a historic investment to get fiber in the ground and close the digital divide,” Gov. Gianforte said. “With this investment, Montanans will have greater access to opportunities for employment, health care, and education, and businesses in every corner of our state will be able to grow, prosper, and create more good-paying Montana jobs.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission, about 1 in 3 Montanans do not have access to broadband, which is three times the national average. The digital divide is even greater in Montana’s rural communities where 3 in 5 Montanans do not have access to broadband.
To ensure ConnectMT funds are directed toward unserved and underserved Montana communities, the Montana Department of Administration contracted Lightbox Parent, L.P. to build a statewide broadband map.
The statewide broadband map shows both where current federal funding is already committed to reach unserved areas in the state and where Montana’s underserved, unserved, and frontier areas are located. The map will help providers best assess need for broadband deployment and close digital divide throughout the state.
“In less than 60 days, Lightbox received data from Montana’s internet service providers and integrated it into their program to visually reflect where current service is being provided throughout the state,” Director of Administration Misty Ann Giles stated. “I applaud the collaborative effort by our state’s internet service providers and Lightbox to complete this phase of the project in a timely manner.”
Pursuant to Senate Bill 297, eligible applicants for this program are nongovernmental entities with demonstrated experience in providing broadband services or other communications services to end-user residential or business customers in the state.
The ConnectMT Program will conduct a series of informational webinars beginning February 10, 2022 to support applicants through the submission process. Applications are due April 8, 2022. More information on how to register for an event and apply for ConnectMT funds can be found at connectmt.mt.gov.