Montana broadband mapping data should be released this fall

Back in March, the Montana Department of Commerce announced that it was conducting a broadband speed test, but since then, I have heard very little about how the test was going.

That test, accessed through the speed test website, was only one aspect of the study, which looks to determine the speed and efficiency of the state’s broadband services.

The data collected during the study, funded in part by stimulus money from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration, will also be included in NTIA’s national broadband map when it is completed.

Given our recent interest in broadband coverage in Gallatin County, I thought it worthwhile to call the Department of Commerce to check on the mapping project’s progress.

Chad Hultin, the state’s broadband mapping program coordinator, said that the state has met all of its deadlines with NTIA for submitting data to the federal map.

“We’ve been very happy, and NTIA has been pleased with our results,” Hultin said. “It’s been difficult in Montana because of our open record laws, and we don’t have a lot of providers that want to sign non-disclosure agreements. Our contractor’s done very well in using alternative means to collect that data.”

The data collection work has been contracted through Tetra Tech, a California-based engineering firm with an office in Bozeman.

Hultin said that though the state submitted data to NTIA in July, it will be this fall before that data is published to the Web in a usable form. Tetra Tech is in the process of building a Google Maps-like Web app to display the data publicly, he said.

“Our plan is really to have the data available,” Hultin said. “But we just don’t have it yet.”

According to the first story I wrote about this, NTIA provided the Department of Commerce with just over $2 million for broadband mapping and planning. The state’s version of the Recovery Act, HB-645, allocated $300,000 to broadband service mapping.

The Department of Commerce’s application for the funding