Tester Secures $629 Million From Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to Bolster High Speed Internet Across Montana, Serve More Than 100k Households & Businesses

Funding comes from Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program that Senator Tester helped write into law;

More than 100k unserved locations in Montana anticipated to receive coverage

As a direct result of his bipartisan infrastructure law, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today secured $628,973,798 in funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program to build high speed internet infrastructure that is anticipated to cover more than 100,000 unserved locations across Montana.

BEAD is a new program which Tester secured in his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and is a cornerstone of the overall effort to finally close the digital divide and ensure every corner of Montana has internet access. Tester worked with five Republicans and four Democrats to negotiate the IIJA and was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to vote for the bill. 

“As a third-generation farmer from Northcentral Montana, I know firsthand how important high speed internet access is to our rural communities and growing economy,” said Tester. “Too often, people in Washington, D.C. don’t understand the challenges we face in Montana which is why I fought for this investment in my bipartisan infrastructure law to bring high-speed internet access to every corner of our state. I’m proud to have secured this funding for Montana that will create good paying jobs and ensure that Montana small businesses are able to compete in the 21st century.” 

Funding secured by Tester through the BEAD program will primarily be used for building broadband infrastructure in unserved locations (those without access to 25-megabit-per-second (Mbps) download service and 3-Mbps upload service, or 25/3 Mbps service) so that those locations will have access to internet service with no data caps and at reliable speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps. There will be other requirements around service quality, including low latency, which is important for real-time applications like video streaming or videoconferencing. While negotiating his bipartisan infrastructure law, Tester successfully secured a provision that sets aside 10 percent of BEAD program funding for high-cost areas. 

Following NTIA and Tester’s announcement of funding today, the state of Montana will now complete a multi-step process to receive its allotted BEAD program funding. Montana must submit an initial proposal within 180 days of today’s funding announcement, which involves the state submitting a proposal describing its intended uses of BEAD funds and how it will construct a competitive award process to award BEAD funding to internet service providers who will do the actual broadband buildouts. Tester ensured that this process is subject to public comment to allow Montanans an opportunity to provide input on the award process.

Tester is Montana’s leading champion for high-speed internet connectivity in rural communities. 

Following Tester’s push, the FCC recently released new and increasingly accurate maps that illustrate what internet service options are available to a particular residence. Last week, Tester secured nearly $12 million in IIJA funding to install 137 miles of new middle mile broadband fiber in Western Montana and improve high-speed internet access and network resiliency for 42 communities surrounding the Sapphire Mountains – connecting the Missoula, Bitterroot, and Big Hole valleys and completing the “Sapphire Ring Project.” Earlier this month he also secured $119 million through his American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to build out high-speed internet to 61,000 locations across the state form ARPA’s Capital Projects Fund. Additionally, this month he secured $47 million in IIJA funding for high-speed internet projects in Phillips, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Valley, Lincoln, and Flathead Counties, which will serve more than 3,000 Montanans and 150 businesses.

Tester worked across the aisle for months to negotiate his bipartisan IIJA with a group of five Republicans, four Democrats, and the White House. Tester secured significant wins for Montana in the legislation, including $65 billion to deploy broadband to areas across the country that lack internet access and additionally make online connectivity more affordable.