Who doesn’t need reliable internet for work, school, telemedicine appointments, or just about everything else? Yet Montana ranks dead last among U.S. states in combined scores of internet access, speed, and affordability—adding another challenge to families trying to make ends meet, get an education, and hold down good jobs.
Yes, we’re a big, out-of-the-way state, but consider this: Alaska’s internet speeds are more than twice as fast, and 35% more Hawaiian households have access to low-cost internet than Montanans do.
The Bozeman Public Library is tackling the challenge by making mobile internet hotspots and laptop computers available to anyone with a Library card. The hotspots are portable Wi-Fi devices that provide internet access for laptops, tablets, phones, and other devices over a cellular connection, without using a personal data plan. You can borrow a hotspot with or without a laptop computer for 14 days (and you can place a hold on one here).
For the long term, good news is on the horizon. In 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act allocated $266 million to Montana for expanded broadband access. Last week, the state closed its request for proposals for projects to expand high-speed internet into underserved areas using those funds, supplemented by money from a federal infrastructure bill passed last year. The FCC also recently announced the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides low-income families with subsidized internet and computer discounts.
Until the “Last Best Place” moves out of last place for internet access, your Library has you covered. Waiting for a repairman for your home internet? Spilled coffee on your laptop? Overwhelming your plan’s bandwidth with visiting family or a period of intense remote work? Swing by your Library and let us get you back online.
This ongoing program costs the Library more than $11,000 per year and is funded entirely by donors like you. Your have allowed us to expand the number of hotspots and computers available for patrons to borrow–thank you!