Missoula Fiber Broadband Won’t Help Rural Customers Right Away
While the launch of a multi-million dollar fiber network will bring new options for connection to very fast broadband service in Montana, it's not going to provide relief for rural customers still coping with sub-standard connections.
However, TDS Telecom officials say there's hope on the horizon, as Montana gets its share of billions of dollars of federal infrastructure funding.
Last week, TDS officials joined Governor Greg Gianforte and local officials in cutting the ribbon on the company's new warehouse, which will be the hub for the fiber build in the Garden City.
TDS Telecom's focus is on Montana's major cities first
Drew Peterson, TDS Telecom's Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs explains the company specializes in rural, but will focus first on Montana's major cities.
"What I want to tell Montana residents is our first cementing here is going to be to build out these five or six communities. You know, Butte Billings, Great Falls, Missoula, Helena, and really build our name, build our brand identity, become a fabric within the community," Peterson explains, telling us how every interview asks about rural access. "What can you possibly do for rural areas? And there's going to be a tremendous focus on that. There's $42 billion of federal money available from the Infrastructure Act that Montana is going to get a nice portion of because it's such a sizable landmass."
Peterson says residents living outside Missoula and the other cities can play a role, by talking with their own providers and urging government leaders to lobby for investment.
"I would tell folks to be patient. And also talk to your existing providers. You know the reason why folks don't have as rich reliable fiber broadband in rural areas is the economics of it, right? (It will) cost the same to build fiber whether there are ten people on a street or two and you know people need to appreciate that. But I think there is a role for policymakers to play. In finding experienced private sector carriers that can build this out with the assistance of some federal support to get the job done."
But there is a big economic impact
It will take "multiple years" to complete the fiber installation, but with the company spending $ 160 million, there's an economic investment that will impact the entire region.
"This is all private capital that's coming into Montana," Peterson notes. "We're going to create jobs here, but I would also remind folks, when we bring in our national construction partners, they create a whole host of jobs and economic development. They're staying in hotels, they're eating in restaurants, they're getting their laundry done. It is an ecosystem that we're going to build here."
"We're not perfect. Be patient with us. We will over-communicate when we're building and understand that when this is complete, it'll be a total game changer for Missoula."