Rural Digital Opportunity Fund enables fiber construction to underserved areas in Montana
FEBRUARY 2, 2021 – MISSOULA, MONTANA – Blackfoot Communications today announced plans for bringing fiber-based broadband internet services to portions of Western Montana, including areas around Georgetown Lake, the far southern portions of the Bitterroot Valley, the Highway 12 corridor west of Lolo and the Swan Valley.
“We are thrilled to be bringing fast, reliable, high-speed internet access to portions of Montana that have never had it before,” said Jason Williams, Blackfoot’s CEO. “This project will ensure that schools and communities to homes and businesses in these areas will have the fastest and most reliable internet service for decades to come.”
Blackfoot was a successful bidder in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) auction administered by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) late last year. The RDOF program awarded billions of dollars to hundreds of companies across the country who have committed to provide broadband internet access services to customers that are currently unserved or have poor, low-speed internet service. The reverse auction allowed broadband carriers to bid for these funds, with winning bidders promising to deliver broadband and voice services to abandoned service areas. Blackfoot’s receipt of RDOF-related funds is contingent upon the FCC approving Blackfoot’s final network build-out plan proposal.
Blackfoot’s current plans include:
- Providing gigabit speed broadband service in the Georgetown Lake area beginning in late 2022
- Areas of the southern Bitterroot Valley will see Blackfoot services beginning in late 2023
- The Highway 12 corridor west of Lolo and the Swan Valley will have services beginning in 2025 and 2026
“Building these networks is a massive undertaking, and our long Montana winters and rough terrain make plowing fiber difficult,” Williams said. “Even though some of these areas won’t see our service for 4 or 5 years, I want people to know that we are coming and that we will do everything we can to get you connected to our fiber network as soon as we can.”
In 2016, Blackfoot began an extensive multi-year network upgrade project to replace portions of its network with fiber optics across its cooperative service areas. To date, Blackfoot has plowed thousands of fiber drops to customer locations and has converted hundreds of customers to its fiber-based broadband services.
“Broadband plays a critical role in each of our lives, and nowhere is that truer than here in Montana,” said Laura Maedche, Blackfoot’s Customer Operations Manager. “Our construction teams have been hard at work over the past 4 years installing new fiber across Northwestern Montana, allowing our communities to benefit from reliable and fast broadband services. We can’t wait for even more Montanans to experience our Home WiFi and Business services.”
Where to find additional information:
- Blackfoot Communications, Network Upgrade Program: https://blackfootcommunications.com/networkupgrades/
- FCC, Rural Digital Opportunity Fund: www.fcc.gov/implementing-rural-digital-opportunity-fund-rdof-auction
- FCC, Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase 1 results: www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/rdof-phase-i-dec-2020/
- Blackfoot Communications: www.blackfootcommunications.com