Montana is not the best for internet service, with 2007 figures showing almost 17% of residents still on dial-up from their ISP and almost one third having no internet use at all. The average download speed of only 2.3 mbps in 2009 was less than half the US average, showed a decrease on 2008 and put the state in last place. Almost 40% of respondents had a download speed below the broadband standard of 768 kbps from their internet provider.
In common with all states, Montanan has been seeking federal funds to improve the availability of broadband internet services. In August 2009, the Montana Department of Commerce applied to the NTIA for $3.6 million for broadband mapping and a further $0.5 million for planning, adding state funding of $300,000. A consultant was being sought to undertake the mapping.
In total, Montana sought $97 million in grants, the largest being a $34 million project to bring a broadband service to various communities. A separate application from Bresnan Communications for $70 million to build a high speed network linking Montana's Indian reservations has been vigorously opposed by several telephone and internet providers. They argue that the 1,880 mile fiber optic cable network duplicates existing DSL networks in many areas.
Outside of federal funding, Verizon extended its wireless internet access in Bozeman, Butte and Great Falls during 2007. However, wifi hotspots are largely concentrated to lines either side of the Rocky Mountains.
Although the fourth largest state by area, Montana has the third lowest population density. Due to its size, it has a varied climate and recorded the lowest US temperature of -70 degrees Fahrenheit in January 1954.
Around 60% of the state is prairie with a mountainous region to the west. The economy is mainly based on agriculture and there is also lumber and mineral extraction. Tourism is important, with visitors to the Glacier National Park, the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn and three entrances to the Yellowstone National Park. The state capital is Helena and the four largest cities are Billings, Missoula, Great Falls and Bozeman.
Cities in Montana likely to have, or soon to receive, fiber optic cable internet services include Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, Butte, Bozeman and Helena. Locations in MT with highest population counts will be targeted first by providers, though relatively high speeds can be achieved with dial-up or DSL through companies such as Netzero and Charter Communications Cable.