Tester Secures More Than $8.5 Million for High-Speed Internet in Yellowstone and Big Horn Counties
Funding will come from USDA’s ReConnect Program
In his continued effort to close the digital divide in rural communities, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that he secured $8,579,820 for Montana in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service ReConnect funding for high-speed internet expansion in Yellowstone and Big Horn Counties.
The grant will go to Project Telephone Company, and will be used to connect 693 people, 16 businesses, one educational facility, and 23 farms to high-speed internet. The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program will be used to ensure the affordability of this internet service. This project will serve portions of the Crow Reservation, Fort Smith, and Pompey’s Pillar areas.
“Living in an area with limited service, I know from experience that the lack of high-speed internet access is one of the biggest issues facing Montana’s rural communities,” Tester said. “Expanding access to reliable and affordable internet is critical for the growth of our small businesses and rural economies and for the future of our students. I’ve been a longtime supporter of the this program and am proud to have secured more ReConnect grants for Yellowstone and Big Horn Counties to get working families, students, and small businesses online as soon as possible.”
Tester has been a longtime champion of high-speed internet expansion across rural America. 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, and just last month, Tester secured $57 million in ReConnect grants for broadband expansion in rural areas and Indian Country.
Tester has also long pushed the FCC to improve internet 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 provided $65 billion for high-speed internet deployment in rural communities lacking internet access and affordable online connectivity. Of the $65 billion, Tester secured $1.926 billion for the ReConnect Program and $14 billion for the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides $30 a month towards the cost of internet to eligible households. As of September 19, 2022, 29,293 households in Montana have enrolled in the ACP.