In surprise vote, Montana House Republicans (and incumbent companies) kill Democratic municipal broadband proposal. “(Providers) just do not show up in those small towns”

rural broadband

On Monday, lawmakers received a series of talking points on the bill from the Montana Telecommunications Association urging a no vote on HB422, warning that municipal broadband was too expensive, too risky and lacked successful test-cases.

He attributes its failure, at least in part, to last-minute lobbying efforts by established telecommunications companies in Montana that were caught off guard by the bill’s passage through the process.

“I expected it to fail on the House floor. It didn’t, and then the lobbying really began,” Kortum said.

HB422 would have repealed existing law banning cities and towns from operating an ISP. Kortum and other Democrats presented the bill as one that would help bring connectivity to so-called “donut holes” of limited service in rural and even some urban areas in the state.

“(Providers) just do not show up in those small towns,” he said.


Municipal Broadband Is Roadblocked Or Outlawed In 22 States States without municipal broadband restrictions have lower internet prices on average.

States without restrictions enjoyed higher access to low-priced broadband plans. Low-priced access data was taken from active internet plans in our database as of Q2 2020.


Montana’s Regulations Rated Worst in the U.S. for Internet Infrastructure Deployment Process – 50th in the nation — for broadband internet access – Federal Permitting Process Slows Rural Broadband Expansion

As state lawmakers begin to consider changes, R Street’s annual broadband scorecard offers a comparative look at every state’s existing laws and highlights areas for improvement.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson Signs Law That Opens the Door for Municipal Broadband Networks

“This law opens it up where we can get some new competitors into this field,” said Republican Sen. Ricky Hill, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Chattanooga, Tenn., Makes Economic Case for Municipal Broadband

According to a 10-year study, the municipally owned broadband utility of Chattanooga, Tenn., has brought about economic benefits in the billions. The research could play an important role in future political debates.

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1 Comment

  1. Russ Fletcher on March 4, 2021 at 9:18 am

    I can’t believe the broadband bill got killed at the last minute in what appears as a blatant lobbying effort on the part of big telecommunications, as represented by the Montana Telecommunications Association. As cited in the IR article, the Association’s flier “called the proposal a ‘waste of scarce public resources’ and promised that the most cost effective way to address broadband demand was ‘to facilitate private investment in broadband infrastructure.'” And when is that going to happen? I challenge Geoff Feiss, any of the managers of the companies represented by the Association, or any of the legislators who flipped at the last minute to try teleworking or taking a telehealth appointment from my house. This short-sighted action helps to drive Montana off the tracks for attracting new businesses and advancing virtual work and education opportunities in the state. One step forward, two steps back.

    Jon Kesler


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