Montana Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney recently announced a strategic plan to bring reliable broadband to Troy and promote economic development, advance public health and safety, and enhance educational opportunities.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Deloitte, and the Montana Telecommunications Association collaborated to develop the plan.
“When I visited Troy, community members identified a lack of reliable broadband as one of their most significant challenges, and it’s something that keeps Montana’s rural communities from thriving,” Lt. Governor Cooney said. “Not only will this plan empower the community of Troy, but it will serve as a model to bring broadband to rural communities across the state.”
In many rural communities, geography and low populations discourage investment by many telecommunications companies.
The best data available indicates that 92% of urban Montanans have access to broadband, while 59% of rural Montanans have access. Research estimates 245,000 Montanans only have access to one wired provider, leaving them with no options to switch service and another 40,000 people in Montana don’t have wired internet available.
The roadmap seeks to bring broadband beyond Troy to assist the approximately 40 percent of Montanans without reliable connectivity.
Lt. Governor Cooney traveled to Troy in October 2018 as part of the Main Street Montana - Rural Partners Project. This next phase of the Main Street Montana project focuses on expanding economic opportunities through rural and tribal communities in Montana. During the visit, residents identified establishing broadband as a top priority.
To meet this goal, the Main Street Montana Project, run through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, partnered with Deloitte Consulting and Montana Telecommunications project. Deloitte provided a pro bono analysis of the broadband connectivity challenges that are specific to Troy and helped develop a connectivity roadmap outlining next steps. The 12-week project included 30 interviews with stakeholders in Troy, a planning and visioning workshop, and a final meeting to present the roadmap.
The roadmap provides a framework to clarify the challenge of infrastructure deployment, an approach to addressing those challenges, and what to do next. The roadmap also suggests recommendations on how to form a Broadband Taskforce to implement the steps in the roadmap. Finally, a funding kit analyzes the various funding opportunities to assist with broadband deployment and makes recommendations on the best options for Troy. With 51 federal broadband loan and grant programs with $83 billion in funding, communities need help navigating this complex process to determine the best funding opportunities.
As a result of Deloitte’s pro bono work, Troy is activating their Broadband Task Force and is developing a community broadband strategic plan. The approach developed by Deloitte could be applied to help connect the nearly 40 percent of Montanans without reliable connectivity.
“Our goal for this project was not only to identify what roadblocks exist, but also to highlight the opportunities to support economic and educational opportunities through improved broadband connectivity,” said Charles Neal, Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP.
“By focusing on the impact of what improved connectivity means to Troy, we could hone in the specific steps that could make the most difference for the community. We strongly believe in the transformational power of improved connectivity and what it means for the quality of life in Troy and across rural America.”