The state announced on Thursday that it is seeking a third-party contractor to create a map that identifies areas in the state where broadband needs are not being adequately met.
Officials are calling the move one of the first significant steps in closing the digital divide in Montana.
The Request for Information will allow for a mapping solution to identify and prioritize specific regions of the state in need of better broadband Internet, according to a statement from Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton.
“Mapping is key to effectively deploying at least $275 million allocated through my ConnectMT Act to establish and improve Montanans’ access to the broadband,” Ellsworth said. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close the digital divide and build Montana’s 21st Century digital infrastructure. We’ll be using advanced mapping technology to identify areas to identify unserved and underserved areas of the state. This publicly available map will lay the foundation for successfully completing our broadband internet program goals .”
Senate Bill 297, the ConnectMT Act, sponsored by Ellsworth, created the Montana broadband program and was supported by House Bill 632, sponsored by Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell. HB632 created the framework for allocating federal funds via Montana’s ARPA commissions. Between the two bills, $275 million was earmarked for broadband investment in the state.
“The State of Montana has hired experienced staff dedicated to executing the broadband buildout. Selecting a mapping solution is a major step forward to bridging the digital divide and strengthening Montana’s economy,” Ellsworth said in a news release.
Once published, the broadband map will be publicly available at arpa.mt.gov/communications. Refer to this site for further ConnectMT Program information and to track future events.