Tester Secures Nearly $12 Million for High Speed Internet Deployment in Western Montana through Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Funding to install 137 miles of broadband fiber, serve 42 communities around Sapphire Mountains

As a direct result of his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), U.S. Senator Jon Tester today secured $11,756,500 in funding from the National Telecommunications Information Administration’s (NTIA) “Middle Mile Program” to install 137 miles of new middle mile broadband fiber in Western Montana and improve high-speed internet access for 42 communities surrounding the Sapphire Mountains – connecting the Missoula, Bitterroot, and Big Hole valleys.

NTIA’s “Middle Mile Program” was created and funded by Tester’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Tester was one of five Democrats and five Republicans to negotiate the legislation, and was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to support it.

“As a third generation farmer who’s lived in rural Montana my whole life, I know that access to high-speed internet is a game-changer,” said Tester. “Completing the Sapphire Ring project will connect thousands of folks to high-speed internet, create good paying Montana jobs, and ensure that Western Montana’s families and small businesses are able to compete in the 21st century. I was proud to author the bipartisan infrastructure bill that’s funding this project, and I look forward to seeing it done right by a pair of Montana small businesses.”

Funding secured by Tester will be used by the Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative and the Southern Montana Telephone Company to complete the “Sapphire Ring” project, which will create a broadband fiber ring circling the Sapphire Mountains connecting the Missoula, Bitterroot, and Big Hole valleys. This project will ensure that 42 communities in six separate counties will have high-speed internet when completed.

The Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program is a $1 billion program created by Tester’s bipartisan infrastructure law that provides funding for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of middle mile infrastructure. The purpose of the grant program is to expand and extend middle mile infrastructure to reduce the cost of connecting areas that are unserved or underserved to the internet backbone.  Middle mile infrastructure acts as a link between the internet backbone and last-mile networks that connect to homes and businesses.

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 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, last week 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 also worked across the aisle for months to negotiate 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.