Tester Secures $57 Million for Broadband in Rural Montana Communities and Indian Country

Funding will come from USDA’s ReConnect Program

In his continued effort to close the digital divide in rural Montana communities, U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced that he secured $57 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service ReConnect grants for broadband expansion in rural areas and Indian Country. The grants, which were funded through Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations, will go to the Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative in Ravalli County, Nemont in Roosevelt and Valley Counties and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, and the Reservation Telephone Cooperative in Richland and Wibaux Counties. 

“Limited access to broadband networks is one of the top issues facing Montana’s rural communities – and one that was only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic when folks were forced to rely on technology more than ever before,” Tester said. “These resources will not only make it easier for folks across the Treasure State to stay connected, but they’ll also help small businesses expand and create jobs, provide rural students with access to high quality education, and allow folks to access affordable telehealth services instead of driving hundreds of miles to the doctor. I’m proud to have secured these investments that will strengthen our communities and grow our economy.”

A breakdown of the projects can be found below:

  • $4 million to Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative (Ravalli County) – will serve 89 people, five businesses, and 47 farms.
  • $24.5 million to Nemont (Roosevelt and Valley Counties and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation) – will serve 1,068 people, 25 businesses, and 282 farms.
  • $18.5 million to Reservation Telephone Cooperative (Richland and Wibaux Counties and three counties in North Dakota) – will serve 67 businesses, 4 public schools, and 91 farms.

As a farmer in an area without cell phone service, Tester has been a Montana’s leading champion for broadband expansion to rural communities. In December of 2018, he helped secure $600 million to launch the ReConnect Program to expand high-speed internet in rural communities across the country.

Tester has also aggressively pushed the FCC to improve broadband access in rural America, and has asked the FCC to take concrete steps to increase the accuracy of broadband maps. In 2019, Tester introduced the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which would increase funding for broadband buildout in rural areas by improving the accuracy of broadband coverage map.

Last year, Tester worked across the aisle to negotiate his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which included $65 billion to deploy broadband access to communities lacking internet access and affordable online connectivity.