HELENA — A Montana telephone cooperative landed a $70 million federal loan Wednesday that will enable it to expand high-speed Internet and television service into rural north-central Montana and two towns in southwest Montana.
The loan, one of eight announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, was awarded to 3 Rivers Telephone Cooperative of Fairfield.
“This will help push out broadband to rural Montana with fiber to the home,” said Mike Henning, 3 Rivers’ interim general manager. “It helps the ranchers, it helps the farmers; it helps rural Montana. … It will keep the rural economy going.”
The $70 million loan to 3 Rivers is more than three times the next-largest loan announced Wednesday.
The co-op plans to use the money to install 1,700 miles of fiber-optic cable that will bring high-speed Internet to 4,700 households, 500 businesses and 82 “critical community organizations,” such as hospitals, libraries, schools and public safety departments.