Last month, Mike Kazmier, CTO, of Avail TVN (now Vubiquity) introduced a critical element of business growth – “access to efficient and affordable middle-mile bandwidth.” Kalispell and the greater Flathead suffer economically from this scarcity of access to Tier 1 POPs and economical bandwidth.
But let us fast forward to current developments under foot (and overhead). No ONE company or industry is large enough to solve the challenges of this access by themselves, but recent collaboration between Montana organizations has turned the possibilities for economic development in northwest Montana a shade brighter. Three local partners, The Health Information Exchange of Montana (HIEM), Ronan Telephone Company and MontanaSky Networks have coordinated their build-out of a new regional middle-mile fiber optic network by exchanging services on their respective networks. This collaboration promises to bring a new era for local access to the middle mile high speed IP data network to the Flathead. This effectively resulted in the leveraging of two independent federal funding programs to create a $30 million middle mile infrastructure stretching from Missoula up through Polson, Kalispell, and to Whitefish as well as from Kalispell to Libby. The three organizations continue to serve their respective markets; the HIEM serves the network of hospitals, health clinics and higher education. The collaboration between Ronan Telephone Company and MontanaSky Networks is providing competitive service to governments, K-12, other carriers and the commercial markets.
These uncommon partners are a fascinating case study on achieving a shared solution that begins to address their unique challenges. The impact for economic development and local businesses is the additional choices, efficiency and competitive rates for their local data transport communications needs. This collaboration also enhances the future prospects for beneficial economic development in the Flathead. A secondary benefit of this build out has been the demand for the installation of fiber optic cabling in western Montana and the growth of a local organization, Spligitty Fiber Optic Services, Inc. Montana West Economic Development is assisting this respected local contracting company reach their growth potential. The presence of the Spligitty utility trucks in the Valley is direct proof of the middle-mile fiber optic developments that Mike Kazmier feels is integral in attracting and developing business in the Valley.
These advancements are perhaps as hidden from sight as the fiber itself. In an effort to bring light to the new middle-mile build out in our region, Montana West Economic Development is hosting a Round Table discussion on May 21, at the FVCC Arts and Technology Building, from 8:30 – 10:30. Panel participants will include the 3 partners mentioned above to present on the fiber architecture and the economic advantages this brings to the Flathead and northwest Montana.