Montana leaders investigate internet access

HELENA — Montana leaders are asking the public to share information about their internet needs and access, as they continue efforts to expand broadband service in the state.

The Montana Department of Administration released a survey, asking people about their current home internet service and speed, how they use the internet, and what barriers they face accessing broadband service. Leaders are asking that only Montana residents age 18 or older complete the survey.

In addition, the consultants will hold a series of public meetings over the next two weeks to hear feedback on Internet access in Montana. They will visit six cities:

  • Billing: Wednesday, September 7, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Billings, 27 N. 27th St.
  • Glendive: Thursday, September 8, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Holiday Inn Express & Suites Glendive, 1919 N. Merrill Ave.
  • Glasgow: Friday, September 9, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Cottonwood Inn & Suites, 54250 US Highway 2
  • Kalispell: Monday, September 12, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Hampton Inn Kalispell, 1140 US Highway 2 W.
  • Great Falls: Tuesday, September 13, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Heritage Inn, 1700 Fox Farm Rd,
  • Helena: Wednesday, September 14, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Wingate by Wyndham Helena Airport, 2007 N. Oakes St.

Leaders are planning another tour of the state in the coming months.

In the survey announcement, the Department of Administration said the information will be key to understanding what Montanans need and how to increase access in the state.

“It is estimated that nearly 24% of Montanans have no internet subscription at all,” they said. “As such, this research is crucial to increasing connectivity and bridging the digital divide to better connect connected residents for school, work, and staying in touch with friends and family.

It comes as state leaders decide how to spend about $260 million in federal funding to upgrade high-speed internet service — and consider asking for even more.

Montana’s ARPA director is currently reviewing rankings of 75 projects that have applied for a share of the American Rescue Plan Act’s first round of funding. The state’s ARPA Communications Advisory Commission will make recommendations to Gov. Greg Gianforte on how to allocate that money.

In addition, the state plans to seek additional funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act. Under the law, each state is entitled to at least $100 million for broadband upgrades, with more resources available based on their plan and demonstrated need — and leaders hope Montana will qualify for it. much more.

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