By Tim Leeds 

Meeting set to discuss broadband


The local economic development corporation is teaming up with a state agency to find out what local residents have — and what they want — for broadband Internet access.

Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp., said this morning that the meetings being held around the state are to find out what people need from the Internet, and what they already have.

"Part of it is getting a better understanding of what is already here, but also having a conversation about what people are using it for and what they think the future will be, " Tuss said.

The meeting will run in Hensler Auditorium in the Applied Technology Center of Montana State University-Northern from 10 a. m. to 2 p. m. Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The Montana Broadband Program is organizing the meetings across the state to help in developing a statewide broadband Internet access plan. This meeting is for the region covered by Bear Paw, which includes Hill, Blaine, Liberty, Chouteau and Phillips counties and the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy's Indian reservations.

Stakeholders from the region who have an interest in the development of broadband services as it relates to such areas as public safety, health care, education, emergency services, business development and establishing jobs in Montana are invited to the meeting.

Tuss said the staff at Bear Paw and of the state Broadband Program hope many people attend the meeting, which has the purpose of creating increased broadband awareness, identification of key strategic applications, and the development of regional broadband action plans.

The state Broadband Program, originally administered through the state Department of Commerce and now in the state Department of Administration, is funded by federal dollars through the U. S. Department of Commerce, a program launched in 2009.

The first part of the program included mapping out where broadband access exists, which will be updated through 2014 under current funding. The map of the access can be seen at

Part of the purpose of the meeting is to tell people what access already is there. Many smaller communities in rural or frontier parts of Montana already have better access than more urban regions due to the efforts of companies like Triangle Communications, Tuss said.

The public and private partnerships, with companies utilizing federal funds to help improve broadband access, has been part of that so far, he said.

"I think that it's been fairly effective in covering the waterfront, " Tuss said, "but it's always true that we don't know what we don't know. "

Part of the meeting, along with showing what already is available, is finding out how people are using the Internet now, what they would like to be able to do with their access and how they expect it to grow and change.

A large part of the meetings is to find out what areas now do not have adequate broadband access and how to create that access.

Another part is to collect data to present to policymakers, including state and federal election officials, to illustrate the use, needs and gaps of broadband access.

Tuss said the benefits of good broadband access range from education, medical care to business and economic development.

"I think, from an economic development perspective, the future demands that communities and businesses have access to broadband. I can't imagine a successful future, from a business perspective, without broadband …, " Tuss said.

"There's no reason, regardless of geography or where you live, you can't have access to broadband to assist you …, " he added. "I think the applications for broadband are limitless, and that's why we're having the meetings across the state. "

The meeting Oct. 25 is free and open to the public, but people who plan to attend are asked to RSVP to Bear Paw Development at 265-9226.

Contact Bear Paw Development or the Montana Broadband Program at (877) 4448-6277 or via email at [email protected].


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