Tester highlights dire need to strengthen rural Montana

Senator pushes for investments in broadband, water, wastewater for small town America

(U.S. Senate) – One week after launching his #ConnectMT initiative, Senator Jon Tester today pushed U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development officials to better connect and invest in rural Montana.

During an Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Tester highlighted the dire need to increase investment in broadband, water, and wastewater facilities in rural communities to boost business opportunities and reverse the population decline in rural America.

“Our broadband is not where it needs to be,” Tester said. “We have a lot of folks being left out of the 21st century economy in rural America and broadband access gives them the ability to reach additional customers in urban areas.”

With rural counties losing over a half-million residents since 2010, Tester also highlighted how the dramatic depopulation of rural America is impacting his home state.

“It breaks my heart to see what’s going on in rural America, it really does. In my hometown we’ve lost both hardware stores, we’ve lost two of the three grocery stores. We’ve even lost three of the five bars, that’s how bad it’s getting,” Tester said. “We’ve got to make these investments before rural America is gone.”

Last week Tester launched his #ConnectMT initiative with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to connect folks online, on the phone and on broadcast air.

This week Tester introduced the REST Act to attract and retain teachers in rural Montana schools.

In August, Tester brought Under Secretary Lisa Mensah to Big Sandy to highlight how critical USDA Rural Development investments are to Montana communities.