The Montana Broadband Office’s vision is to narrow the digital divide in support of Montana’s economic, workforce, health, and educational goals by ensuring reliable, affordable internet access for all Montanans. Given how much of the state will have broadband access for the first time as a result of private, state, and federal investment over the next several years, a priority aim for Montana is to pair broadband deployment with digital opportunity efforts. This strategy will maximize the impact of new broadband service across the state. Montana has prioritized digital opportunity in its approach to improving broadband access, factoring in affordability, access to devices, and digital skills to help close the internet adoption gap across its covered populations.
As part of its broadband strategy, Montana is developing programs and partnerships that address core factors impacting digital participation for Montanans. Searching for and responding to a job ad, communicating with a child’s teacher, and accessing government services are all examples of interactions that are easily executed online in communities with reliable and affordable broadband access. Rural communities, representing ~61 percent of Montana’s population, are further removed from access to in-person services and are also less likely to have sufficient internet access, potentially keeping them cut off from basic services and information. Montana has made it a priority to offer electronic options for accessing government services via eGovernment, one of the State of Montana's information technology goals and major strategic initiatives, through which 62 different state agencies, organizations, universities, and local governments offer more than 400 online services to benefit Montana's citizens. Broadband deployment will further the state’s IT strategic goals, and its workforce, educational, healthcare, and economic goals.
The Montana Broadband Office (MBO), located within the State of Montana’s Department of Administration (DOA), has the mandate to act as the administering entity for the state’s broadband infrastructure deployment program, ensuring broadband access, adoption, and implementation for all populations within Montana.3 The Montana Broadband Office (MBO) is building a broadband program that will reach unserved and underserved locations and narrow the digital divide, giving all Montana residents the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy.
The main objective of this Digital Opportunity Plan is to close the digital divide for covered populations, which include:
- Individuals who live in covered households, the income of which for the most recently completed year is not more than 150 percent of an amount equal to the poverty level, as determined by using criteria of poverty established by the Bureau of the Census
- Aging individuals
- Incarcerated individuals other than individuals who are incarcerated in a Federal correctional facility
- Individuals with disabilities
- Individuals with a language barrier, including individuals who—
- Are English learners; and
- Have low levels of literacy
- Individuals who are members of a racial or ethnic minority group; and
- Individuals who primarily reside in a rural area.
Covered populations make up 83.3 percent of Montana’s population, with individuals primarily residing in a rural area accounting for nearly two-thirds of the state’s citizens.