The state of Montana has taken two major steps to help close the digital divide. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced both that the state released a new statewide broadband service map, and has opened applications for its ConnectMT Program.

The governor’s office explained in a press release that the public can now view the new statewide broadband map which shows current internet service areas and which parts of the state still lack broadband access. The new broadband map will “serve as a key resource and guide for providers to determine where to apply for funding,” the governor’s office said. The map 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.”

In addition to releasing the map, the state has also opened applications for its ConnectMT program, which will provide up to $266 million in funding to deliver high-speed, terrestrial-based broadband service in unserved and underserved areas throughout the state. The state explained that the program encourages providers to use existing middle-mile infrastructure to support the new last-mile infrastructure. The governor’s office said this approach will stretch public funding to reach more unconnected Montanans by not overbuilding or duplicating existing infrastructure.

“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 is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act that was passed by U.S. Congress in 2021. Gov. Gianforte said he expects to make decisions on awards in late June 2022.

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