Blackfoot Communications, a provider serving rural areas of Montana and Idaho, is getting set to begin work on seven fiber deployment projects for which the company was awarded $60 million through Montana’s ConnectMT program. Blackfoot will contribute an additional $16 million toward total project costs of $76 million.
Funding was awarded in December, but as Chris Laslovich, public affairs manager for Blackfoot, told Telecompetitor, any company planning fiber deployments using buried cable in Montana (as Blackfoot plans to do) has to wait until this time of year or later to begin construction.
Charter Communications, another big winner in the program, was awarded $110 million and, as Bret Picciolo, senior director of communications for the company told Telecompetitor, the company expects to start work this year on all the projects for which it won funding. Those, also, are fiber broadband projects.
A third big winner in the program, Grizzly Broadband, expects to begin construction in May on its projects, which will also use fiber broadband. Grizzly Executive Director Joe Smith told us the start date is impacted more by the timing required to establish contracts than it was by the weather.
Grizzly Broadband won $48 million in the program and will contribute an additional $11 million to total project costs to bring service to about 15,000 homes, Smith said. The company traditionally has offered fixed wireless but has been deploying fiber for several years.
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte announced in December that the state broadband office had recommended $309 million in awards for 61 projects through the ConnectMT program. The program was funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Blackfoot, Charter and Grizzly were three of the biggest winners in the ConnectMT program. Several other companies won smaller amounts.
Blackfoot had some of the highest scores of all projects awarded funding.
According to Laslovich, this occurred, in part, because of the lack of broadband in the project areas and in part because “Blackfoot has a lot of community support” and “received a lot of letters of support throughout the application process.
“As a local company we’re best positioned to be successful and know our service area.”
Blackfoot operates as an ILEC and CLEC, serving 5,000 square miles in Montana and 2,000 square miles in Idaho.
Updated with information from Grizzly Broadband