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Montana ARPA commission reconsiders initial broadband grant award proposal Thumbnail Image

Montana ARPA commission reconsiders initial broadband grant award proposal

Montana's rescue plan funding commission is going back to the drawing board after its proposal to award nearly half of rescue plan funds to a telecom incumbent drew sharp criticism from local broadband providers.

Montana’s ARPA Communications Advisory Commission announced Monday that it would go back over the initial rankings of the 75 project planners that applied for the broadband grant funding.

“At the end of the day, our job is to make sure that we do what’s best for Montana,” said Commission Chair Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton.

The decision came after a damning report in the Montana Free Press and criticisms from local providers after the commission proposed awarding almost half of its $260 million American Rescue Plan Act broadband grant funding to Charter Communications.  

The Montana Free Press reports:

The initial grant ranking, prepared by the Department of Administration and consultants at CTC Technology and Energy, recommended funding 47 broadband projects proposed by 14 different companies. If completed, those projects would expand high-speed internet access to an estimated 41,000 homes and businesses across Montana. 

It also reports that Charter spent more than double the amount of money that the trade group for local providers did:

Both Charter and the Montana Telecommunications Association lobbied extensively during last year’s legislative session as lawmakers drafted the bills that defined the parameters of the Connect MT program. Lobbying disclosure records indicate Charter retained five lobbyists and spent a total of $87,000 trying to advance its agenda on topics including the Connect MT legislation. The telecommunications association, represented by Feiss, reported spending about $42,000.

For more information about winning broadband grants in Montana, and the potential grant amounts available to to grant applicants planning to apply for grants coming from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act's Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) provisions, visit Broadband.money's Montana BEAD grant funding profile page. The page offers estimated available amounts of money available for Montana broadband grant-funded projects, investment maps, and an interactive BEAD grant funding portal with demographic data, broadband availability status, and more.   

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