Let’s see, the Bitterroot Valley is home to some pretty sad broadband internet. Speeds are slow and the footprint for service availability is small. That leaves many in the valley with the only option of paying for wireless service which is expensive and comes with data caps limiting the amount residents can use the internet before paying overage fees.
You would think that improving access to broadband internet in the Bitterroot would be a top priority for our legislators. Increasing access would give local businesses a tool to better compete in the world market. It would allow residents to work remotely for companies spread around the country and the world. It would allow students to take classes online and pursue college degrees.
Improving broadband internet just makes sense.
Unless you’re a Republican legislator apparently. Today, in the House Appropriations committee, our own Bitterroot legislators Nancy Ballance and Ron Ehli voted to table HB14. Tabling the bill effectively kills it at this point in the 2015 Legislature. That means we’re looking at another two years at least without giving Century Link or Charter motivation to improve service in Ravalli County.
I’ve spoken with Century Link over the past year about when we can expect increased speeds in the Bitterroot. The usual answer is they have plans but no timeline. Had this bill passed, it’s likely it would have spurred network upgrades at the least, if not expansion of services in the valley. Without the bill, we’ll undoubtedly continue to wait for internet speeds to improve. Internet is important in today’s economy. It touches everyone. Everyone except the people who could have made a difference.
When you have trouble watching Netflix or any other streaming video service, it’s Ballance and Ehli you can now thank.