Blackfoot Communications Announces Grant Award for High-Speed Fiber Internet Project in Western Montana

Blackfoot Communications and Southern Montana Telephone were awarded $11.75 million from the NTIA Middle Mile Grant Program that supports new fiber construction in remote areas. This project adds 137 miles of new ‘middle mile’ fiber, broadband infrastructure that does not connect directly to an end-user location, in Western Montana. The total project cost of nearly $17 million includes over $5 million in matching funds from Blackfoot Communications and Southern Montana Telephone.

“This project is a gamechanger for rural communities in Western Montana” said Jason Williams, CEO. “Access to high-speed, reliable, and secure internet connectivity will soon be a reality for many previously unserved and underserved communities thanks to this investment. We’re excited to partner with Southern Montana Telephone and put our nearly 70 years of experience building and maintaining networks to work building this critical infrastructure, connecting businesses, schools, and hospitals to more opportunities.”

The project is a fiber-based middle mile network that loops around the Sapphire Mountain range, connecting the Missoula, Bitterroot, and Big Hole Valleys. Blackfoot will construct 115 miles of new fiber, partnering with Southern Montana Telephone (SMT) that will construct 22 miles (totaling 137 miles of new fiber). Combined with existing middle mile fiber owned and operated by Blackfoot and SMT, the new project completes a 365-mile fiber ring, protecting last mile customers relying on critical broadband services in the event of a middle mile fiber cut.

Completion of this project will facilitate deployment of broadband service to more than 9,600 locations that will be within 1,000 feet of the middle mile fiber. Of these 9,600 locations, 5,810 are currently unserved and 3,822 are underserved. Included in these 9,600 locations are more than 70 anchor institutions—including schools, hospitals, and libraries—many of which are unserved.  

In addition to increasing access to broadband service, this project provides protection from outages caused by fiber cuts and mitigates the risks of extended internet outages resulting from climate and environmental factors. Infrastructure deployed on this project are rated to withstand extreme temperatures and earthquakes and avoiding or mitigating climate hazards such as wildfires, extreme snowfall, and seismic activity.

The project features four distinct phases. Phase 1 constructs from Hamilton to Sula, Phase 2 builds from Missoula to Hamilton, Phase 3 constructs Sula to Battlefield, and Phase 4 completes the route from Anaconda to Rocker. Construction is set to begin this summer with a projected completion date by the end of 2025.

Blackfoot Communications delivers voice, broadband and fiber-based internet connectivity to homes and businesses in Western Montana and Eastern Idaho.

Media contact
Chris Laslovich