Tester Secures $32,500 for Lincoln County Libraries Foundation to Close Digital Divide

Funding will help expand internet access, improve availability of technology, create digital literacy workshops, and keep Lincoln County residents connected

As a part of his continued effort to connect rural Montana to high-speed internet, address technology needs, and improve digital literacy, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced $32,500 in American Rescue Plan funding to Lincoln County Libraries Foundation in Libby, Montana to advance digital inclusion in the rural communities of Libby, Eureka, and Troy and in more remote, unincorporated areas of Lincoln County.

Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to support the American Rescue Plan.

“Ensuring reliable access to digital resources is essential to growing Lincoln County’s economy in the 21st century,” said Tester. “The past eighteen months have exposed the digital divide in rural Montana, and it’s critical that we get folks connected to high-speed internet so that we can support communities and small businesses in Northwest Montana. Montana’s libraries are hubs in our frontier areas, and this funding will help them identify where Montanans are falling through the digital gaps and find solutions to make sure folks in Lincoln County can stay connected.”

Tester secured this funding through the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant program, created by the American Rescue Plan to support museums and libraries in addressing community needs created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The libraries will conduct a community digital access assessment to identify gaps and needs in equipment, staffing, and program development; a technology specialist will be hired to manage the community survey and data collection; community feedback will inform the development and implementation of a six-part digital literacy workshop series; and free, in-person workshops will take place at three library branches and will be recorded for future use by additional audiences.

Tester has prioritized closing the digital divide in rural Montana, and the Senate recently passed his bipartisan infrastructure package which will make urgently needed investments in expanding high-speed internet to every corner of Montana. He also recently secured more than $850,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to help students access high-speed internet through the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.