In comparison to the other fifty States, Montana is ranked nearly dead last in terms of internet access. The low amount of broadband infrastructure can likely be attributed to the fact that Montana has a great deal of rural and wilderness areas as well as a relatively low population despite its large geographic size. To put this in perspective, Montana has roughly the same population as Rhode Island. Montana’s average statewide download speed is 81.4 Mbps, but coverage remains spotty throughout the state.
The Digital Divide in Montana
As with the rest of the world, not all Montana residents have equal access to the internet. This creates a ‘digital divide’ between those who have access to a reasonably priced high-speed internet service and those who do not. Considering two important factors will aid in gauging the technological gap that exists between residents living in different parts of Montana; availability and affordability.
There are 120 internet providers operating in Montana. While 77.9% of Montanans have access to wired broadband with download speeds of 25mbps, there remain 203,000 people in Montana without access to a wired connection capable of these speeds. Additionally, 205,000 residents only have one internet provider to choose from, leaving them with no options in the case they are dissatisfied with their provider or would like to change to another plan. Another 36,000 people do not have any wired internet providers offering service at their home address.
At this time, a mere 0.7% (less than 7,500) of Montana’s residents have access to a wired broadband plan that costs $60 or less per month, according to the latest affordability data.
Still, some cities in Montana are remarkably well-connected, with some areas even offering gigabit broadband coverage. When it comes to speed, price, and availability, the best ranking cities in Montana with the highest-ranking listed first are Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell, Missoula, Butte.
Montana has been the beneficiary of a variety of federal grants aimed at improving the State’s broadband infrastructure. From 2010-2014, the Montana Department of Commerce was awarded $6,084,826 to help form Montana Broadband Program with a focus on supporting expanded internet acAngelacess, especially in rural and tribal areas of the State.
Other programs, such as the Broadband for Montana Schools Program and Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program have aimed at helping schools and public libraries gain access to better internet with the objective of enriching education and employment opportunities.
The above information has been curated from a mix of public and private datasets. Find out more about our data here.