By Al Ward, Volunteer State President, AARP Montana
Without a doubt, improving access to high-speed internet was necessary before the pandemic, but since COVID hit, the “digital divide” in Montana has only become more apparent.
On Tuesday May 11th, Governor Gianforte signed “The ConnectMT Act - To establish broadband deployment” (Senate Bill 297) into law. The bill was sponsored by Senator Jason Ellsworth of Hamilton and passed the Montana legislature overwhelmingly.
This new law leverages $275 million in federal money available through the American Rescue Plan Act to expand broadband infrastructure and access throughout Montana. It will also leverage additional county/local matching funds of up to $175 million.
AARP Montana is encouraged that the new law will focus on frontier, unserved and underserved areas of the state, in addition to building out even stronger infrastructure where broadband already exists.
Telehealth services depend on access to affordable high speed internet. Since the pandemic, telehealth has expanded exponentially and will continue to be another viable way of providing health care to Montana’s seniors and rural population.
For older Montanans, internet access helps combat loneliness by making it easier to stay connected to friends and family. Social isolation is a serious public health issue that places seniors at higher risk of failing health and early death.
AARP Montana wishes to thank the bill’s sponsor and all the state legislators who worked to pass this landmark bipartisan legislation. Additionally, we appreciate Governor Gianforte’s vision to build-out Montana’s broadband infrastructure.
This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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