Yellowstone Fiber Build in Montana

Construction has begun on the open access FTTH network that Yellowstone Fiber announced six months ago.

The company, which was called Bozeman Fiber when the project started, is laying conduit and preparing to install fiber. The three-year plan is to offer service to every address in Bozeman and extend the network deeper into Gallatin County.

The network will provide speeds as fast as 10 Gbps for residential subscribers and 100 Gbps for businesses. Yellowstone says that it is the first open access project in Montana.

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In 2021, Yellowstone partnered with UTOPIA Fiber, a company that specializes in open access projects. In December it established Yellowstone Fiber – a 501(C)(3) – and secured $65 million in a private funding round for the Bozeman network. Funding is being sought to build out the remainder of Gallatin County, according to CEO Greg Metzger.

The first six providers on the network will be Blackfoot, Global Net, Hoplite Industries, Skynet, Tri-County Telephone Associates (TCT) and XMission.

“In addition to speed, what we’re bringing residents and businesses is choice,” Metzger said in a Yellowstone Fiber press release.”Multiple ISPs use our fiber to compete on our network. This means that customers see faster speeds, better prices, and even better customer service. ISPs get access to new markets quickly. It’s what we value here in Montana because it’s really what the free market is all about.”

Open access projects are gaining some momentum. Last month, for instance, Ubiquity said that it will invest $100 million in open access projects in Hutto and Killeen, TX.

Underline uses a different approach. It builds all the way to customers. Providers use the same pricing model and compete on other factors. The company said in January that it will build networks in Fountain, CO and Salinas, CA.

Other projects underway in Montana include one from the Southern Montana Telephone Company, which won a $3 million grant through the USDA ReConnect program in February 2020. The USDA awarded the grant to build an FTTH network in Beaverhead County that will serve a 1,688-square-mile area that includes 109 households, 26 farms and ranches, seven businesses and the Grant Fire Station.

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