Chris Evavold

Fiber, road safety, and now the Clark Fork bridge. Residents and businesses in lower Rock Creek are literally left “Up a Creek!”

Blackfoot Communications, a member-owned cooperative has left lower Rock Creek out of their project calendar for infrastructure upgrades and climate resilience and instead has opted for band aids that solve nothing long term and expose our communication lifeline to more hazards.

This communication lifeline is our cell service as well since a cell signal is spotty to mostly non-existent in our valley. Currently, our communication lifeline is precariously suspended on failing poles over and adjacent to Rock Creek. Last spring during runoff I contacted Blackfoot and Missoula County where the creek had eroded the roadway and was dragging our communication lifeline with it. We came close to losing our lifeline then.

Just last week Granite County mowed through our communication lifeline laying next to the roadway. Yes, our communication lifeline was lying on the surface next to the roadway. This was Blackfoot’s band aid to get us through the winter should the overhead line fall into the creek. Zip tied to trees and bridges and lying right next to the roadway, this communication lifeline is our EMS, our cell service, our landline, and our business links to the outside world.

About 10 years ago, Blackfoot did install undersized fiber up the creek to serve as a fiber trunk to feed the copper lines to our homes. We’re told that this fiber was not sized to serve everyone’s homes and businesses at the time. Yet, one wealthy family had been provided the opportunity to access the undersized fiber, benefiting from fiber’s advantages, while the rest of us are left with Edison’s 19th century copper.

Rural fiber is often a talking point for politicians. Federal legislation has led to much of the funding over the last decade. Yet, lower Rock Creek continues to get passed over and is nowhere to be seen on Blackfoot Communications project calendar. The most recent grants like the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and ConnectMT seemed to have come into our co-op’s coffers yet passed our Rock Creek member-owners by.

Blackfoot states on their website, “One way or another, Blackfoot plans to bring fiber-based broadband to all of its Cooperative members in the coming years.” What way and what year is fiber coming to lower Rock Creek?

We deserve better!