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Montana ranks near the bottom for broadband access

By Jordan Moore, KTVM Reporter, jmoore@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 27 2014 06:39:51 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 27 2014 09:45:33 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Montana sits in the bottom three in our nation for internet broadband performance. The data found on a website called Net Index breaks down the data state by state.

We headed to local tech businesses to get insight on how they are fairing with internet in our area. JTech Communications in Bozeman is a company familiar with internet issues. Joshua Reynolds, the president of the company, sat down with NBC Montana Monday afternoon.

"Right now with Charter we are experiencing significant packet loss going out to major networks in the country," said Reynolds.

The company is composed of seven employees and nine computers, making internet an essential part of their daily work. Reynolds cited a recent run-in with slow service that prevented an out of state employee from doing his job.

"Its gotten so bad recently that he can't connect to our file server and download files," said Reynolds.

We also wanted to see how Montanans are reacting in local government. Brit Fontenot is the Director of Economic Development for the city of Bozeman and tells us he is not surprised Montana is ranked so low in terms of internet quality.

"I've seen studies like this over the past few years," said Fontenot.

Fontenot explained that part of the problem could be the cost of tapping in to fiber optics, which offer the fastest internet speeds. The rural nature of the state does not help in this equation.

"There is fiber optic connectivity out there, broadband, but it is expensive," said Fontenot.

The city has been aware of this issue and is in the early stages of developing a plan.

"The future is a ring, a community ring connecting around the community that allows data to be transmitted both internally and externally," said Fontenot.

The first order of business is to reach out to the community.

"What we are trying to do is understand if the tech businesses shave what they need in terms of internet infrastructure to start, grow and relocate here," said Fontenot.

For Reynolds his needs are simple, wanting a connection he can rely on.

We also took a closer look at some of the data for what areas have the best download internet quality. Deer Lodge came in first place with 15.64 Mbps. They are followed by Polson and Anaconda. Out of the 23 cities that were listed on the website, Glendive, Libby and Plains rounded out the bottom three for worst download quality.