Within three years Big Sky will have access to broadband internet, cable and telephone service thanks to $64 million in federal stimulus funds received by Montana Opticom, a local telecommunications company based in Gallatin Gateway.
The money is part of $1.31 billion in broadband federal stimulus funding announced Aug. 4 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The stimulus is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, 2009, designed to jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so the country can thrive in the 21st century.
According to their website, with the Gallatin Gateway Project, Montana Opticom expects to create over 60 direct jobs. These jobs include 10 new full-time positions to assist in the build out and operation of the proposed network. During construction an estimated 32 independent contractors and 19 engineers and numerous support staff will be required to assist in the build out.
The company currently has 22 full- and part-time employees.
The award, which is half grant and half loan, will allow the company to bury fiber-optic cable throughout an area that includes Manhattan, Belgrade, Four Corners, Gallatin Gateway, Big Sky, and parts of West Yellowstone -- areas that currently have access to slower cable and dial-up Internet service.
The project area of 153 square miles includes 18,844 people, 7,746 households, 4,176 businesses, and 58 critical community facilities, and will provide voice, video and data services at speeds of up to 100 Mbps.
The cable will be laid over the next three years, eventually making high-speed internet available to more than 11,000 households, businesses and public buildings, said Dean Genge, a spokesman for Opticom.
Internet speeds over the cable will range from 20 megabits per second to 100 megabits per second.
The project is about more than high-speed communications; it also functions to improve public safety in the Gallatin Canyon as well as improve the ability to offer telemedicine and educational content. The Gallatin Gateway Broadband Project will provide access to emergency responders, wireless carriers and research facilities to assist in improving and broadening communications through the busy Route 191 canyon that connects Bozeman, Big Sky and West Yellowstone.
Bringing telecommunication to the canyon, which has one of the highest accident rates in Gallatin County, will improve emergency medical response to accidents in the area. And looking ahead, the project will enable future adoption of emerging technologies that take full advantage of the fiber network.
Montana Opticom will provide a delivery-of-service plan as the infrastructure schedule is determined, and will promote the services and timeline to consumers and businesses in advance of service connection.