A plan to improve internet broadband access across Montana will get public review in Missoula and several other cities in early December.
With one out of every four Montanans lacking an internet subscription of any kind, the state Department of Administration is researching where to deploy $266 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act for improving broadband service.
Anyone interested in checking their individual internet service capacity can use an updated interactive map from the Federal Communications Commission. The map is the main tool for planning broadband improvements nationwide through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has allocated $42 billion for internet upgrades in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment fund.
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The map allows people to search by address, provider, area or download capacity across the United States. Find it at broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home. For served locations, it can show the type of technology (copper wire/fiber optic cable/satellite) up- and download speed capability and local service providers available.
Last April, Montana communities were invited to apply for grant funding to expand their capacities in fiber-optic networking, telecommunications infrastructure and community connectivity.
The town hall meetings in Missoula as well as Butte, Havre and Miles City will bring together community leaders, internet service providers, stakeholder groups, school, library and health care workers and the general public for review of grant proposals and next review steps. Outreach sessions have already taken place in Billings, Glendive, Glasgow, Kalispell, Great Falls and Helena.
Details on the specific awards have not been released as of Friday. The ConnectMT website will post final grant awards in December.