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Two Montana tribes receive nearly $75 million to expand internet access


The Biden administration awarded nearly $75 million to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Blackfeet tribes Tuesday to expand broadband access on tribal lands.

A little over half of the Flathead Reservation has access to high-speed internet, and that number is even lower on the Blackfeet Reservation at 23%, according to Broadband Now.

Tribal officials from both reservations say that’s about to change due to a massive infusion of cash from the infrastructure bill passed by Congress earlier this year.

The Blackfeet Nation is getting more than $33 million for broadband buildout.

Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Secretary Lauren Monroe Jr. says roughly 4,500 homes on the Blackfeet Reservation will gain broadband speeds, but he says this is about more than just internet access for reservation residents.

“A lot of the stuff we’re focusing on is telehealth, online education systems, economic development and things like that that would move the tribe forward in a direction of being competitive with the outside world," he said.

CSKT officials say the $41.5 million they are receiving will lay more than 300 miles of fiber optic cable, connecting hundreds of households to high speed internet.

The Blackfeet and CSKT grants are two of nearly 100 that have been given to tribes nationwide under the Internet for All program set up by the infrastructure bill, totaling $1.35 billion.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.