City Leaders in Bozeman, Montana, Declare Broadband Essential Infrastructure

In mid-April, city leaders in Bozeman, Montana, passed Resolution No. 5031 to officially declare broadband essential infrastructure for the city. The declaration comports with the city’s long-term goal to bring high-quality connectivity throughout the community.

Read Resolution No. 5031 in its entirety here.

Pointing Out the Positives

In addition to describing the ways access to broadband has improved opportunities for residents and businesses, the language of the resolution lays out the steps Bozeman has already taken. In addition to establishing a planning initiative, the resolution describes their decision to adopt a master plan, and the creation of nonprofit Bozeman Fiber. The resolution also chronicles the city’s investment and urban renewal plan, which includes Bozeman Fiber, and the fact that broadband has become a contributing factor to the city’s social and economic health.

As part of the resolution, the City Commissioners include their next steps in order to advance citywide connectivity in Bozeman:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Bozeman will; 1) create and implement a conduit utility master plan and begin the transition for operating the conduit system as its own enterprise fund; 2) include a conduit design and construction standard as part of the City’s approved engineering standards; 3) maintain updated record drawings and GIS mapping of the City-owned conduit network; 4) consider the expansion of the existing City-owned fiber optic conduit network infrastructure when appropriate and when funding is available; 5) utilize conduit lease revenue for the purchase of additional public conduit; and 6) align conduit network expansion decisions with the City Budget and Capital Improvement Plans and planning processes.

Bangor, Maine, passed a similar resolution last summer. As communities make such formal declarations, they show their commitments to improving local economies and encouraging their constituents to consider connectivity an integral part of daily life.

Bozeman Fiber

The city created nonprofit Bozeman Fiber back in 2015 to provide commercial connectivity via publicly owned fiber to bolster economic development. Funding from local banks helped shore up the capital needed to build the fiber optic network. With $3.85 million, the city constructed the first 23 miles and, in addition to local businesses, Bozeman’s schools are also using the network.

According to Greg Metzger, President and CEO of Bozeman Fiber, the nonprofit has had connection requests from people who work from home. Expanding to one house at a time, however, isn’t cost effective. With conduit already in place, however, he estimates the cost of connecting a premise drops from $75 per foot to $6 per foot. By aggressively installing conduit and carefully mapping where it’s deployed, Bozeman can help reduce the cost of later deployment.

Andrew Hull of Elixter, a marketing agency that uses Bozeman Fiber, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that his company requires the kind of connectivity he gets on the network.

“My company is very focused on marketing technology and is very dependent, if not entirely dependent on, high-speed quality Internet service,” Hull said. “That access definitely helped us in the last one to two years of growth.”

Elixter began with one employee and now has 50.

Bozeman Fiber recently announced that they are increasing speeds for small and medium sized businesses that now subscribe to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) / 50 Mbps and 250 Mbps / 100 Mbps. Subscribers at either level of service will now receive 1000 Mbps (1 gigabit) / 50 Mbps and 1000 Mbps / 100 Mbps with no increase in price.

Local Support

Just a few days after the City Commission passed Resolution 5031, editors of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle applauded the decision.

Editors of the Chronicle describe the city’s decision to invest in the network “forward thinking” and say of the resolution:

Of the new priorities Bozeman city commissioners added to their strategic plan recently, perhaps none will prove to be more consequential than declaring broadband internet service to be essential infrastructure – just as important as streets, bridges and water and sewer systems.

The Chronicle also advocates for government to participate in advancing better connectivity. Editors acknowledge that there are some things the private sector does better than the public sector, but that when it comes to establishing broadband networks, which are essential infrastructure: 

Only government entities are positioned to establish the rights of way and provide maintenance for streets, roads and water and sewer systems.

As the community continues to grow, reliable high-speed Internet will be essential for attracting the right kinds of clean industry jobs. And putting it on a par with other vital infrastructure will make certain that will be available throughout the city in the future.

Listen and Learn

Listen to episode 233 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, recorded in December 2016, to hear Christopher interview Anthony Cochenour and Bret Fontenot from Bozeman Fiber about the network's strong start.

Photo credit City of Bozeman Facebook Page.