September 19, 2023

Department of Agriculture Announces Fourth Round of ReConnect Funding: Broadband Breakfast

BOZEMAN, Montana, July 27, 2022 — Officials of the nonprofit Internet entity Yellowstone Fiber announced Thursday that they will pursue federal broadband funding to expand network construction in rural areas of its Montana footprint.

With each state set to receive a minimum of $100 million to expand broadband infrastructure under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Yellowstone Fiber officials believe that they are well positioned to secure funds to connect homes, businesses, farms and ranches to high-speed fiber optic high-speed Internet in sections of Gallatin County, Montana north of Bozeman.

Although Yellowstone Fiber is only in the process of commissioning its first customers in September – and began offering presales in late July – the new fiber entity believes that the availability of funding through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program of the IIJA offers a unique opportunity.

As with all states, Montana will receive a minimum of $100 million to extend high-speed broadband infrastructure to nearly one-third of state residents who currently do not have access.

Speaking about the imminent launch of services on Yellowstone Fiber, CEO Greg Metzger said, “This is an important milestone for Yellowstone Fiber and we are extremely excited to announce that the network will be operational in a few weeks.

“For decades, people in rural Montana have been limited by slow, expensive internet service and the empty promises of cable companies. Today’s announcement signals that we are serious about connecting rural Gallatin County to high-speed fiber and the limitless possibilities it provides,” he said.

Yellowstone Fiber builds an open access network, which means Yellowstone builds, owns and operates the fiber infrastructure, then leases space on its high-speed fiber to service providers including Blackfoot Communications, Skynet Communications, Global Net, TCT and XMission.

In an interview, Metzger touted the role open access networks play in enabling free market competition, including better prices, better service, and better reliability.

Metzger, an entrepreneur who previously made plastic deposit bags for banks, sold that business and bought a furniture company in Montana.

Although he said he would rather play golf, when he came across a new funding mechanism, he decided to create a non-profit entity designed to serve his community with fiber optic network services. .

Yellowstone Fiber was formerly called Bozeman Fiber and was created in 2015 as an economic development initiative to address the lack of true broadband broadband in Gallatin County, Montana.

A group was formed including the City of Bozeman, Gallatin County, Bozeman School District, and business leaders and funded by eight banks with a designated Community Reinvestment Act loan.

This $4,000,000 was used to create a fiber ring connecting anchor tenants including the city, county and school district, and also serving the Cannery District and downtown Bozeman.

Anchor operations began in fall 2016 and commercial operations in February 2017. In 2020, the network formed an operating partnership with Utah-based UTOPIA Fiber to bring fiber-to-the-home services to every address in Gallatin County.