Ziply eyes Montana as new frontier for its fiber

  • Ziply unveiled plans to bring fiber to five Montana cities
  • Many Montana markets have been overlooked by fiber, said Ziply exec Ryan Luckin
  • Since launching in 2020, Ziply’s expanded to more than 130 markets

Ziply Fiber has set its sights on the Treasure State for its next expansion.

The operator this week unveiled plans to build fiber to nearly 29,000 addresses in Billings and Great Falls – marking Ziply’s first major expansion in the state. Previously, it only offered service in the towns of Libby and Troy.

Ryan Luckin, Ziply’s VP of marketing, told Fierce that Ziply will use a combination of buried and aerial fiber for the deployments and expects to complete construction in Billings and Great Falls by the fall.

It’s not stopping at those two cities, though. Ziply’s also plotting to turn up another 26,000 addresses with fiber in Missoula, Helena and Butte. Meaning it’s targeting a total of around 55,000 new locations with fiber.

“Many Montana markets have been looked over by fiber providers in the past, so we’re excited to bring America’s Fastest Home Internet to these communities,” Luckin noted.

Indeed, fiber internet doesn’t seem too prevalent in Big Sky Country. According to BroadbandNow, satellite and fixed wireless access (along with Spectrum for cable) have the highest availability in Billings.

Lumen’s Quantum Fiber and TDS Telecom (which has touted its own Montana expansion) are the only fiber ISPs among the city’s top seven providers. However, both are available to less than 10% of the population.

The situation is similar in Great Falls, where 3 Rivers Telephone Cooperative is the primary fiber provider with only 5.3% availability.

Ziply’s a private company, so it doesn’t report quarterly subscriber figures. It’s one of a number of broadband providers, such as Brightspeed and Ting Internet, that’s using private equity to fuel deployments.

Luckin said since 2020, Ziply expanded its network to more than 130 markets. He confirmed Ziply customers in Montana will be able to sign up for the company’s recently-launched 50-gig tier (which notably runs on Ethernet rather than XGS-PON).

It also has its eye on Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding.

“There are a few areas we are evaluating for applications,” he said. “We are awaiting the final adjudication of the eligible locations to confirm our interest.”

Montana is set to receive a BEAD allocation of $629 million from NTIA, as well as $6.9 million for digital equity efforts.