Montana has $700 million in broadband funding available, but how best to distribute it is a matter of debate among state politicians. As the Montana Free Press reports, state Democrats submitted a proposal earlier this year through the House legislature, but SB 531, a Republican initiative, is currently at the forefront. While both parties claim to be eager to advance broadband in Montana, they do not agree on how best to accomplish these goals.
The earlier plan backed by the Democrats favored channeling projects through Montana-based businesses where possible. The Republican approach would instead bring in telecom powerhouse Charter Communications, an entity experienced in coordinating large scale solutions.
In addition to criticizing a national provider rather than bringing in numerous state level providers, opponents to SB 531 have pointed out that Charter’s projects have concentrated on more populous areas rather than underserved areas.
State Senator Dan Salomon, who sponsored Senate Bill 531, stated, “We have to look at what we have, what we need, and how to best spend these dollars and submit our plans to the feds for approval before we get any funds. This bill is designed to accomplish those requirements while giving us the flexibility we need to navigate this complex grant program.”