A recent survey from BroadbandNow Research showed the state of Montana at the very bottom of the rankings for internet coverage, price and speed. The company found that only 77 percent of the population had broadband access, and only 62 percent could get low-priced plans. The average speed test for the whole state was 110.5 Mbps.

Companies have been burying more fiber-optic cable throughout the state. Crews, for instance, have been working along US 93 in Ravalli County and in some neighborhoods on the east side of Hamilton. Federal money to get more access to rural areas have been approved, but it takes a while for the work to be done. Meanwhile, Montana Senator Jon Tester recently secured about $850,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act to help 11 schools gain better internet access. The money is directed toward purchasing modems, routers, laptops, tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots.

Florence-Carlton in Ravalli County was included in the lucky school districts. Others were Yak, Fromberg, Red Lodge, Billings School District 2, Great Falls Public Schools, Gallatin Gateway, Manhattan, Whitehall, Valley View in Polson and Upper West Shore at Dayton. The Florence funding was $159,600. Other packages ranged from about $2,500 to $500,000.

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The money will come from the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. Tester said in a news release, "Affordable high-speed internet is a necessity in today's schools, whether it's to make up for learning loss due to the pandemic, accessing online resources, or simply logging in to distance learning. But far too many students across Montana still lack access to reliable broadband services."

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