CCAGW Urges Montana Governor Greg Gianforte to Amend BEAD Funding Proposal | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

CCAGW Urges Montana Governor Greg Gianforte to Amend BEAD Funding Proposal

Letters to Officials

October 27, 2023

Governor Greg Gianforte

P.O. Box 200801, Helena, MT 59620


Dear Governor Gianforte,

On behalf of the 8,883 members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) in Montana, I respectfully urge you to ask the Montana Broadband Office within the Department of Administration to amend its ConnectMT Initial Proposal Volume II Initial Draft Overview for Montana’s Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding application with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to eliminate rate-setting for low and middle-income plans, expand the type of technologies and vendors for which this funding would be made available, and reduce the speed threshold considered “high-speed” in order to qualify for BEAD funding.

The current proposal includes several provisions that would impede broadband investment, innovation, and competition in Montana, and make it more difficult to bridge the digital divide. These provisions are likely to reduce connectivity for the residents of rural and mountainous expanses in Montana where fixed infrastructure options would be prohibitively costly to deploy.

Including rate-setting provisions for middle-income plans would make it more difficult for providers to continue subsidizing service for their low-income customers. Requiring providers to meet a 1 Gbps symmetrical speed threshold for both upload and download speeds implicitly preferences expensive, hard-wired fiber-optic infrastructure over less-costly alternatives better suited for deployment in more rural areas of Montana, like cable, fixed wireless broadband using TV white space and other licensed or unlicensed spectrum, mobile broadband, and low earth orbit satellite broadband, many of which now are capable of delivering high-speed services of 100/20 Mbps. A 1 Gbps speed threshold also runs counter to Congress’ intent for the BEAD program - to connect unserved communities across the country, regardless of the technology used to achieve this.

NTIA's Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) guidance, which suggested prioritizing one technology, fiber-to-the-premises offering 100/100 Mbps speeds, and creating low-and-middle-income preferred rates conflict with the NOFO’s statutory authority. The Advanced Communications Law & Policy Institute (ACLP) at New York Law School argued that the NOFO’s BEAD guidance on rate regulation for middle-class broadband plans is not legally binding and may violate the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s prohibition on rate setting. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo likewise stated during an October 24, 2023, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing that the NOFO lacks the authority to mandate rate-setting as an affordability condition for a middle-class plan.

While serving in Congress, you were a strong and reliable proponent of cutting government waste and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government, which earned you CCAGW’s recognition as a Taxpayer Hero with a lifetime rating of 84 percent. On top of your impressive voting record, you worked diligently with your colleagues to enact and retain historic tax cuts, support deregulation, and help ignite America’s economic boom.

ConnectMT’s current proposal runs contrary to the principles you promoted in Congress and continue to implement as governor of Montana. They would stifle innovation and competition in Montana’s broadband market. I again respectfully urge you to ask the Montana Broadband Office to redraft its ConnectMT initial proposal to NTIA to eliminate rate-setting for middle income households; broaden the types of services to include all broadband technologies and vendors; and refrain from limiting funding opportunities to fiber-only symmetrical 1 Gigabit service which would preclude other technologies capable of providing up to 100/20 Mbps service from consideration.

With changes to the ConnectMT draft proposal, Montana’s broadband market can remain inclusive of varying technologies and price points and ensure that all Montanans have access to affordable, high-speed broadband.


Tom Schatz

President, CCAGW

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