Broadband Access Public Engagement Campaign for the State of Montana
Challenge: The Montana Department of Administration was tasked with developing a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) 5-year action plan and digital equity plan to utilize federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to expand broadband access across the state. This required engaging with diverse stakeholder groups across Montana following the requirements established by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Notice of Funding Opportunity for the BEAD and Digital Equity programs.
Solution: To help Montana collect the necessary qualitative and quantitative stakeholder input required by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Summit quickly developed a stakeholder engagement plan to conduct multimodal stakeholder engagement efforts across the state in only 16 weeks. This public engagement process included the following key elements:
- Two concurrent engagement surveys, one open to the general public and one tailored to community leaders;
- Town hall meetings in 10 metro and rural areas across the state;
- Focus groups with key stakeholders; and
- Interviews with individuals who have specific insight into diverse community needs.
Summit first identified key stakeholder groups—including community anchor institutions, Tribal governments and community leaders, state and local officials, entities that carry out workforce development programs, labor organizations, nonprofit and community-based organizations, internet service providers, and educational institutions—for inclusion in engagement. Summit then worked with the Department of Administration to connect with public and private partner organizations and contacts to build a network for stakeholder engagement and outreach. Leveraging this diverse network, Summit planned, scheduled, and facilitated in-person and virtual one-on-one and group outreach sessions to better understand the state’s challenges in providing adequate broadband service to its residents. Through Summit’s stakeholder engagement plan and process, state officials were able to meaningfully engage with the state’s digitally underserved and unserved populations.
Over the course of 4 months, Summit conducted approximately 130 stakeholder outreach sessions virtually and in 10 cities and towns across the state, including Billings, Glendive, Glasgow, Kalispell, Great Falls, Helena, Butte, Missoula, Havre, and Miles City. Summit ensured diverse geographical representation from both the more populated hubs as well as the rural areas and hosted each session in a centrally located, easily accessible location. To advertise these events, the team developed a variety of marketing and communications materials that included flyers, press releases, social media posts, and tailored email messaging. For each town hall and focus group, Summit developed tailored presentations and discussion guides. The team also deployed statewide public surveys that gathered information related to respondents’ broadband access, internet uses, digital literacy, and other key data points.
Result: Leveraging the Summit team’s final stakeholder engagement report, the state of Montana was able to draft a robust and compliant 5-year action plan to outline the path forward for expanding broadband infrastructure in a way that also promotes and prioritizes digital equity. The outputs of our engagement allowed the state of Montana to understand the drivers of broadband adoption and consider input from all stakeholders, including historically underrepresented populations, when setting priorities for deploying funding for broadband infrastructure digital equity.