(Missoula Current) Two months after announcing its plans to begin laying broadband fiber in Missoula, TDS Telecommunications on Thursday cut the ribbon on its new warehouse.

In the coming weeks, the service provider will begin building its fiber network to connect 35,000 homes and business in the greater Missoula area, the company restated during Thursday's event held near the Wye.

Statewide, the investment represents $160 million

“This morning, TDS leaders met with city officials about our construction plans and now it’s time to celebrate the start of work on the TDS fiber facility here,” said Drew Petersen, the company's senior vice president of corporate affairs. “We are here in Montana this week to introduce ourselves and become your new neighbor and investment partner.”

The City of Missoula in 2021 approved its franchise agreement with TDS, which marked the first time the city has had a competitive cable franchise enter the market. Spectrum already operates in Missoula and industry watchdogs have said the competition could benefit consumers through pricing and service.

TDS said its system will deliver “symmetrical internet speeds up to 8Gig" – a speed the company claims is ideal for broadband “super users,” such as those who use photo or editing programs, stream content and play video games.

The company's new warehouse is located at 9912 Garrymore Lane near the Wye.

“Soon, this warehouse will be filled with the latest in technology that will bring state-of-the-art Internet, and sophisticated digital TV and phone services to residents in Missoula,” Petersen said.

To date, TDS said it has hired 45 associates in Montana with plans to hire more than 25 more. It's also building a fiber network in Billings and plans to begin construction later this year in Helena, Butte and Great Falls.

Gov. Greg Gianforte, Mayor Jordan Hess and Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier attended the event. Gianforte welcomed the company's investment. The state has both worked and invested to expand broadband connectivity in rural areas of the state.

“Through the expansion of its fiber network in Montana, TDS Telecom will provide reliable service to over 100,000 homes and businesses and support 70 Montana jobs,” Gianforte said. “Montana is open for business, and we’re thrilled TDS recognizes the value in our pro-business, pro-jobs policies and Montanans’ unparalleled work ethic.”

In exchange for permitting fiber in the right of way, the city and county will receive roughly 3% of all revenue generated from TDS' cable services.

It cannot tax Internet or phone services under federal law. Both the city and county use the cable revenue to support streaming technology during public meetings.

“Until they begin providing services, in particular cable television services, the fee probably will be zero for some period of time,” county CAO Chris Lounsbury said Thursday. “Based on the number of subscribers they have and the revenue generated just off that cable TV piece, it's about 3%.”