Montana and Broadband: How Could the State Get Up to Speed on Connectivity?

Missoula and the wider state of Montana are truly magnificent places to live, with its beautiful landscapes and incredible views meaning that its reputation as ‘Big Sky Country’ is totally and utterly deserved.

However, while the state undoubtedly thrives when it comes to sheer natural wonder and outdoor recreation, it is sadly an area which struggles when it comes to more technological matters. More specifically, access to quality broadband services in the area remains a major matter of concern.

Coverage problems

According to, Montana is regarded as the 48th most connected state in the US – with that ranking being based on the percentage of the population with access to broadband speeds of 25mbps or more.

The website outlines that the state’s overall broadband coverage rating stands at 78 percent, with 23 percent of its population being underserved when it comes to access to wired broadband providers. Just 5.3 percent of people living in Montana have access to 1-gigabyte broadband, while only 14.9 percent currently have fiber optic broadband too.

While Missoula is rated as having broadband coverage of 96.8 percent with consumers having access to 14 providers in total, it is fair to say that the area stands in stark contrast to other parts of the state.

A national issue

So, it is clear that when it comes to internet connectivity, Montana is undoubtedly not in great shape. However, the state is far from the only part of the US which is struggling in this regard.

At the end of last year, research published by Microsoft suggested that more than 162 million people in the US do not use the internet at broadband speeds, with the problems perhaps understandably being worse in rural areas. However, as the New York Times reports, one of the more worrying aspects of such findings is that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stated at the time that broadband was unavailable to just 24.7 million Americans.

The FCC is taking active steps on the issue of connectivity though, as it was recently confirmed that more than $60 million in funding has been authorized to boost broadband across rural regions in 14 states. The latest funding represents the sixth wave of support to be issued, with almost $1.2 billion in total being released to tackle the so-called digital divide. Among the funding applications approved in the latest round was one from Gallatin Wireless Internet, which is set to access more than $4 million to provide services to 1,256 homes and businesses across Montana.

Importance of connectivity

Such action is very welcome considering how the internet plays such an important role in so many aspects of our lives these days.

High-quality connectivity is so important in business, for example, as so many parts of operating a company now revolve around having access to digital services. A strong internet connection will ensure organizations are able to establish and maintain websites, develop their social media presence and keep on top of other issues such as emails. Furthermore, the education sector would also benefit from high-quality broadband, as it would mean that students of any age could access a range of tools and resources as they boost their learning and develop new skills.

Of course, great connectivity is vital to our personal lives too. As the imminent launch of Disney+ and other new streaming services shows, having access to great broadband is now a vital part of how so many people watch a range of different content from movies to TV shows. In addition, streaming over a quality internet connection has been vital in the entertainment sector for some time, with online casino sites like Betway, for example, offering so-called ‘live casino’ games. Live games feature a real-life dealer who controls the action via a live high-definition video link. Streaming is only set to become even more important in gaming going forward too, with new innovations like Google Stadia being reliant on access to a quality connection.

Potential solution

So, while the FCC has already launched projects in an attempt to address the issue of the digital divide across the US, are there other steps which could make a major difference to connectivity in the months and years ahead?

One potential development which could offer big benefits is 5G. The next generation of mobile technology has been attracting a lot of attention in recent months, with experts stating that it could offer download speeds in the region of 10 to 20 times faster than what is currently possible on 4G connections.

Research suggests that many people in the US remain unfamiliar with the concept and what it may ultimately mean for them, although it added that many people showed an interest in replacing a wired connection with it once it was explained to them. Put simply, 5G and its potential speeds could mean wired connections are no longer essential for high-quality internet access – and this could spell good news for more rural regions including parts of Montana.

Tackling the issue

While many regions of the US are able to access good quality broadband speeds, it is an unfortunate truth that parts of Montana and other states are lagging behind. The matter is undoubtedly very important considering the huge impact that the internet has on our lives these days, but it is welcome to see that steps are being taken to try and address the issue.

Furthermore, the emergence of technologies like 5G could be vital as the US looks to tackle its digital divide once and for all.