Montana Mapping Official: Treasury Deadline for ARPA Fund Disbursement Probably Too Soon

Montana’s chief data officer believes 2026 is too early for state mapping to be completed and funding requests submitted.

Montana Mapping Official: Treasury Deadline for ARPA Fund Disbursement Probably Too Soon
Photo of Chad Rupe by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

April 13, 2022 – Montana’s chief data officer on Tuesday cast doubt about whether all needed American Rescue Plan Act funds will be able to get distributed by the Department of Treasury’s 2026 deadline.

State officer Adam Carpenter says that from what he sees, states around the nation will need more time to map broadband access for their residents and place funding requests with the federal government under ARPA.

Speaking at an event hosted by LightBox, the information and technology platform constructing Montana’s ConnectMT state broadband map, on Montana’s state broadband program implementation, Carpenter said he is “very worried” that not all funds necessary for broadband infrastructure upgrades will be able to be received from the Treasury by its 2026 deadline.

“I think at this point that the Treasury’s probably gonna have to extend that deadline,” said Carpenter.

He stated that only five states have started the process of mapping access and collecting that mapping data for ARPA fund application as Montana has, and that Montana is “well ahead” of all of them.

Tuesday’s LightBox program highlighted several challenges that state broadband offices like Montana’s face and that other state’s broadband offices should make note of for their infrastructure build efforts.

Montana’s broadband program officer Chad Rupe stated that state offices are relatively new to broadband fund deployment and thus that careful attention must be paid to setting up a strong state broadband program. Hiring office staff who are experienced with broadband was also emphasized throughout the program.

Carpenter explained that extensive planning is needed for broadband programs so that crews do not plan to build broadband projects where internet providers may already be working on infrastructure, and Rupe added that care must also be taken not to overbuild infrastructure in areas where congressional action did not intend it.

According to Rupe, from what he has seen in Montana’s planning it is very possible that supply chain issues can delay infrastructure project builds.

Bill Price, LightBox’s vice president of government solutions, stated that LightBox will be assisting with a webinar to educate other states through demonstration on how they can use internet access mapping to pursue broadband infrastructure projects. Price said LightBox plans on reaching out to states within 30 days to plan its education efforts.

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