Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

Malta on the move with Smart Rural Connected Community

 

June 8, 2016



Early this year, Triangle Communications (Triangle) announced that Malta had been selected to participate in its Smart Rural Connected Community Challenge program. The Stakeholder Committee identified in a joint application submitted with the Malta Chamber of Commerce and City of Malta has been diligently working with Triangle's Economic Development Specialist, Anne Boothe, to determine local technology assets to generate ideas and recommendations to improve broadband technology enabled economic development in the immediate region.

The process included a Technology Inventory – highlights of that effort identified a single highly used public access internet location at the Phillips County Library. The library has multiple computers for patrons to use during operation hours along with open WiFi that the general public can utilize onsite with their own devices. Committee member and PC Librarian Janeen Brookie noted that hourly use of the computers was down this past year but she also acknowledged more people bringing personal laptops, tablets and cell phones for internet access and monitoring that usage is impossible.

There are multiple WiFi Hotspots in the community, with many business properties making access available to their customers. The community has excellent broadband connectivity with Fiber to the Home or Premises throughout the City provided by Triangle Communications. Wireless services are provided by Triangle Mobile and Verizon Wireless and some satellite technologies from DISH and Direct TV.

Malta is well represented on the World Wide Web with many organizations and business entities engaging ecommerce via personal websites and social media. Neither the City of Malta nor Phillips County have current websites but are well represented on the Malta Chamber and PhillCo EGC sites which have recently undergone dramatic updates. Video conferencing is available via the Phillips County Hospital and Malta High School interactive digital ITV rooms.

The County Library provides access to online services such as Montana Library 2Go and Malta Public Schools is recognized as a Google School and integrates technology in a variety of ways, including providing students online course work via the Montana Digital Academy. An Infinite Campus Program improves communications and provides parental access to student school records via a secure online portal.

The Phillips County Hospital and Family Health Clinic have adopted digital records over the past three years and highly utilize telehealth and behavior health online tools. Local KMMR FM radio is available online and provides added emergency security to the region.

Members of several Phillips County groups, including Malta Chamber of Commerce, the City of Malta and PhillCo, recently accept a check from Triangle Communications for the Smart Rural Connected Community Challenge. From left to right are Dennis Robinson, Lorie Bond, Glenda Knudsen, Travis Rhoads, Ashley Stuart, Dina Meneely, Kelly McCann, Karen Salsbery and Eric Wilke.

An added bonus to the inventory process was an online survey created by Dina Meneely with the Malta Chamber of Commerce. According to the responses, the largest use of the internet in Malta was email/social media, work/homework, research and shopping. Roadblocks to being online included band with limitation/slow connection, lack of knowledge and none (no roadblocks.) Technology improvements or enhancements survey takers would like to see included public WiFi, education, speed/connection, no land-line requirement for internet.

Triangle's Smart Rural Connected Community Challenge includes a $2500 grant award to implement Broadband Action Plan priorities set by the Stakeholder Committee. Rising as the top priority was to encourage digital literacy of "everything internet." In Malta, grant monies will be used to host a one day free event in the fall of 2016 called the HiLine Technology Roundup and provide new educational opportunities for workshops, online courses and more for all ages and levels of experience.

The Stakeholder committee continues to explore and serve as a "think tank" for innovation and technology as it relates to the various topics identified throughout the process and in their plan. To join the committee or obtain a copy of the simple Broadband Action Plan contact Dina Meneely (Malta@itstriangle.com) or Anne Boothe (aboothe@itstriangle.net ).

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