MISSOULA - Montana isn't called Big Sky Country for nothing. Libby to Ekalaka is a 12-hour road trip one way.
But a ribbon cutting on Thursday promises to bring Montanans closer together through technology. TDS Fiber celebrated the opening of its Missoula warehouse, promoting better internet connection across the state.
According to Broadband Now, 14% of households do not have any internet access and Montana overall ranks 44th out of the 50 states in internet coverage, speed, and availability.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based company will begin building its fiber optic network in Missoula and aims to provide 35,000 homes with faster and more stable connections to the internet.
The service will offer 8Gig and 10Gig internet speeds to homes and businesses.
"We have a digital divide and this is preventing rural communities from fully participating in this new economy," said Gov. Greg Gianforte. "So, this is why we really prioritize the state expansion of broadband services into rural, underserved, and unserved communities."
"[TDS Fiber] makes your cities smart. It gets you access to economic development. Remote working. Education. I mean it really is the gold standard. And we're so excited to be so welcomed in Montana," said TDS Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Drew Petersen.
TDS will compete with other providers in the area, including Spectrum, which is expected to drive costs down.
TDS has already hired 45 associates in Montana with plans to hire more than 25 additional people. Job openings are posted on the TDS website.
Additionally, TDS is also building networks in Billings, Helena, Butte, and Great Falls.