ConnectMT Launches Statewide Broadband Map & Opens Applications for Closing Digital Divide
Helena, Mont. - Earlier today, Governor Gianforte announced the release of the new statewide broadband map and the opening of applications for the ConnectMT Program.
The public can now view the new statewide broadband map which shows current internet service areas and where the digital divide lies throughout Montana. The broadband map will serve as a key resource and guide for providers to determine where to apply for funding. It will be updated periodically to reflect new high speed broadband service throughout the state, as well as incorporate state and federal funding awards.
“Publishing the map of current broadband service throughout the state is a key step towards bridging the digital divide,” said Department of Administration (DOA) Director Misty Ann Giles. “I applaud the collaborative effort by DOA’s broadband team, our contractor, and the state’s internet service providers to get the map stood up.”
The ConnectMT program started accepting applications today for funding to provide broadband service to areas in need throughout the state. Applications can be submitted until 12 pm MST on April 8, 2022. Up to $266 million will be awarded to deliver new high-speed terrestrial based broadband service for underserved, unserved, and frontier locations throughout Montana.
“Awarding project funding to qualified applicants will create jobs, and stimulate the economy while moving us closer to expanding access to reliable broadband for all of Montana,” DOA Director Giles said.
The ConnectMT Program was developed as a result of Senate Bill 297 and House Bill 632 in Montana’s 67th legislative session. Under the new statute, broadband service providers (providers) need to offer at least a 20% match for any project. Providers are incentivized to engage local communities, offer free service at community anchor institutions for up to three years, and build broadband connections to facilities that will offer telehealth services. Additionally, it encourages providers to connect service to Montanans who have the greatest economic need and offer low-income service options, such as supporting enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Plan offered through the Federal Communications Commission.
The program encourages providers to use existing middle-mile infrastructure to support the new last-mile infrastructure, thereby stretching public funding to reach more unconnected Montanans by not overbuilding or duplicating existing infrastructure.
“We encourage the public to monitor the State of Montana’s ConnectMT website regarding broadband at arpa.mt.gov/Communications for updates, future announcements, and development of the ConnectMT Program,” said Broadband Program Manager, Chad Rupe.
An informational webinar for potential applicants will be offered on February 10, 2022. Eligible providers can apply to provide new broadband service throughout the state and register for the webinar at connectmt.mt.gov.
ConnectMT is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act that was passed by U.S. Congress in 2021. Governor Gianforte expects to make decisions on awards in late June 2022.