Best Internet Providers in Montana

I fondly remember summers in Montana, fishing with my grandparents and watching deer stroll through the yard. My grandparents didn’t have internet at their home in Libby, but times have changed. If they lived there today, they would probably have fiber internet from Ziply. Libby is one of the lucky locales in the Treasure State with fiber access. Most Montanans work with cable, DSL, fixed wireless or satellite internet.

Montana has no great reputation for fast, reliable and affordable internet. Ookla’s Speedtest data ranks it way down in 49th place among the states (and Washington DC), with only Wyoming and Alaska coming in behind Montana. However, most city dwellers can still access decent broadband speeds. 

Spectrum is CNET’s top pick for best ISP in the state. The cable provider delivers gig-level broadband to many of the population centers in Montana. CNET examines customer service, speed, pricing and overall value before recommending the best broadband in your area. Spectrum is joined by other recommendations, including CenturyLink for availability and TDS Telecom as an ISP to watch. Whether you’re moving to Montana or looking to upgrade your current broadband situation, this guide will help you navigate your ISP options.

Best internet options in Montana

Montana can be a tricky place to shop for internet service. A few lucky households can get fiber, but most city dwellers will be comparing Spectrum and CenturyLink. Those living the rural life can weigh choices ranging from local fixed wireless ISPs to satellite internet from Starlink or Viasat. All prices listed on this page reflect available discounts for setting up paperless billing. If you decide not to go with automatic monthly payments, your price will be higher.

Note: The prices, speeds and features detailed in the article text may differ from those listed in the product detail cards, representing providers’ national offerings. Your internet service options — including prices and speeds — depend on your address and may differ from those detailed here.

Spectrum

Best internet provider in Montana

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Price range

$30- $70 per month

Speed range

100 – 1,000Mbps

Connection

Cable

Key Info

Unlimited data, simple pricing, no contracts, modem included, free access to nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots

Charter Communications’ Spectrum cable internet is available to nearly half of households in Montana, according to FCC data. That fact, combined with available gig speeds, put Spectrum into my top-recommended spot. However, if fiber is available to you from Quantum Fiber, TDS Telecom or another ISP, then I recommend prioritizing that over Spectrum.

Availability: You’ll find Spectrum in most of the bigger cities in Montana, from Missoula to Billings, but with no coverage along the eastern end of the state.

Plans and pricing: Spectrum’s basic plans start at 500Mbps for $50 per month and 1,000Mbps for $70 per month. Spectrum doesn’t always advertise its full range of plans online, so you may need to call to find out all the options available for your address.

Fees and service details: Spectrum has made things simple for customers by offering plans with no contract, no data caps and a free modem. The catch is that you can expect prices to rise after your initial two-year honeymoon period.

Read our Spectrum Internet review.

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CenturyLink

Best availability in Montana

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Price range

$30 – $70 per month

Speed range

200 – 940Mbps

Connection

Fiber

Key Info

Unlimited data, no contracts, equipment included with gigabit tier

CenturyLink’s parent company offers two broadband flavors: DSL from CenturyLink and fiber from Quantum Fiber. The fiber service is great if you can get it, but most households in Montana will be looking at DSL speeds. What makes CenturyLink notable is its reach across the state. It’s available in many population centers and extends into some areas that are a bit more rural. 

Availability: CenturyLink covers nearly 56% of Montana households, according to FCC data, making it the state’s most widespread wired internet provider. Most of that reach is through the ISP’s older DSL network, but there are pockets of fiber in places like Billings, Helena and Bozeman.

Plans and pricing: CenturyLink’s DSL service runs $50 monthly for whatever speed you can get at your location. That may mean 3Mbps, or that may mean up to 100Mbps.

Fees and service details: While CenturyLink speeds can be pokey on the DSL side, at least there’s no contract and no data cap. You can lease a modem for $15 per month, buy it for $200 or provide your own equipment.

Read our CenturyLink Internet review.

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T-Mobile Home Internet

Best 5G internet service in Montana

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Price range

$50 per month ($30 for eligible mobile customers)

Speed range

72 – 245Mbps

Connection

Fixed wireless

Key Info

Unlimited data, equipment included, no contracts, no additional fees

T-Mobile Home Internet is affordable and unfussy, provided you can pull down decent speeds in your location. Here’s what you need to know about 5G home internet.

Availability: T-Mobile’s coverage map shows its latest and greatest 5G Ultra Capacity network reaches into many cities in Montana, including Missoula, Great Falls, Helena and Bozeman. However, open slots for home internet may be limited depending on demand and location. 

Plans and pricing: T-Mobile’s 5G broadband network delivers typical speeds between 72-245Mbps for $50 per month. T-Mobile phone customers with an eligible plan can bundle to get home internet at a discounted rate of $30 per month. 

Fees and service details: T-Mobile has no data caps, contracts or equipment fees. Expect a $35 service fee when you sign up, but the company has been offering a $50 reward card as a bonus.

Read our T-Mobile Home Internet review.

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Starlink

Best satellite internet in Montana

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Price range

$20 – $80 per month

Speed range

20 – 250Mbp

Connection

Satellite

Key Info

1TB data limit, no term contract, low latency

Rural Montanans often have to turn to satellite internet to get online from remote locations. My satellite recommendation is almost a toss-up between Starlink and Viasat, but Starlink’s speeds and potential give it an edge. Another big bonus is that no contract is required.

Availability: Starlink is available across the state, but you’ll need a clear view of the sky. Availability can change depending on demand, but you can check your location on the Starlink map

Plans and pricing: Pricing starts at $90 per month for standard service, but be prepared for a hefty initial $599 fee for hardware. Typical download speeds range from 25-220Mbps. 

Fees and service details: There are no data caps and no contracts, and Starlink offers a 30-day trial period to test the service.

Read our Starlink overview.

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TDS Telecom

Best potential in Montana internet

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Price range

$30 – $295 per month

Speed range

300 – 8,000Mbps

Connection

Fiber

Key Info

Unlimited data, no contracts, money-back guarantee

Since Montana’s internet scene isn’t the strongest, looking ahead to better times is important. TDS Telecom has expansion plans for the state that make it an ISP to watch, though fiber build-outs can take time.

Availability: TDS Telecom’s fiber network is up and running in parts of Billings. In early 2023, the company announced construction plans for Helena, Butte, Missoula, Lolo and Great Falls. The goal is to connect 150,000 homes and businesses in those locations.

Plans and pricing: TDS has a variety of plans. Monthly prices start at $30 per month for 300Mbps on up to $295 for 8,000Mbps. The ISP has been offering a special deal in Billings of $70 per month for 1,000Mbps service with a lifetime pricing guarantee. That’s a decent value if you’re planning to stick around.

Fees and service details: No data caps or contracts are required, but your pricing may go up after two years, depending on which plan you choose. Check out the price-for-life plans if that’s a concern. You can rent a modem for $12 monthly or supply your own.

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Rural internet options in Montana

Provider Connection type Price range Speed range Data cap Availability
CenturyLink Internet DSL $50 1-100Mbps None Covers over half of Montana households
Grizzly Broadband Fixed wireless/fiber $65-$150 10-1,000Mbps None Bitterroot area
KDS Networks Fixed wireless/fiber $55-$160 9-1,000Mbps None Great Falls area
Missoula Valley Internet Co-op Fixed wireless Typically $25-$100 based on usage 100-500Mbps None Missoula Valley
Montana Internet Fixed wireless/fiber $65-$89 for fixed wireless 8-500Mbps None Great Falls, Helena and Lewiston areas
MontanaSky Networks Fixed wireless/fiber/cable $55-$100 50-1,000Mbps None Marion, Kalispell, Whitefish, West Glacier, Libby, Troy, Lakeside and more
Rural Broadband Fixed wireless $50-$100 15-60Mbps None Billings area
Wispwest Fixed wireless $49-$96 15-50Mbps None Southern Montana

Show more (4 items)

Source: CNET analysis of provider data

People who live in rural homes, ranches and farms need decent internet for work and play. That can be a challenge in some parts of Montana. Satellite internet from Starlink, Viasat or HughesNet is a fallback, but it tends to be expensive, and speeds may be less than desirable. When it comes to wired internet, your best bet will likely be CenturyLink DSL, which often has a wider coverage area than most other alternatives. Speeds, however, can be extremely variable by location and max out at 100Mbps.

Montana is dotted with local ISPs that offer fixed wireless for rural locations, sometimes paired with a smaller fiber footprint. Our chart covers some options available across the state, but there are more than we’ve listed here. Fixed wireless speeds can vary based on location. You’ll need a good line of sight to a tower. Here’s how fixed wireless compares to other types of internet connections. Most fixed wireless ISPs have fairly standard plans with pricing based on speed. The Missoula Vallery Internet Co-op is an exception. It charges based on usage. Montana could use some improvement in rural broadband options. The state is well aware of the issue and is in the process of pouring funding into improving access to more remote communities as well as ranches and farms.

Montana broadband at a glance

The FCC National Broadband Map shows all Montana households can access broadband internet, but that doesn’t give a complete picture of the internet scene in the Treasure State. The FCC defines broadband as at least 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, and it includes satellite internet in its estimate. Satellite can be expensive and slow and is not necessarily a good fit for all rural locations. The state government says 5% of Montanans live in underserved areas and 13% live in unserved areas.  

FCC data shows less than 20% of Montana households can access fiber internet, and if we’re talking at least gigabit speeds, that number drops to 16%. Not surprisingly, you’re most likely to find fiber in bigger cities, but even then, it’s a bit scattershot. There are some exceptions. Libby, a town of less than 3,000 residents, is covered by Ziply Fiber. If fiber is important to you for remote work or gaming, that narrows your options for places to live in Montana. If you can get by with gig downloads and 35Mbps uploads, Spectrum covers much more ground.

Scenic view of Glacier National Park with a cascading waterfall in the foreground and mountain in the background.

Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

Montana broadband speeds

Montana’s poor showing in Ookla’s state speed test rankings indicates the challenges involved with rural broadband in the state. It’s also tied to a lack of fiber offerings and ISP competition in the cities. Regarding gig speeds, FCC data shows only 16% of Montana homes are covered. Of Montana’s most populous cities, Billings sports a 211Mbps median download speed, while Missoula comes in at 189Mbps and Great Falls is at 209Mbps. If the state capital is on your radar, read CNET’s guide to the best broadband providers in Helena.

Ookla highlights Spectrum as Montana’s fastest provider, with a median download speed of 216Mbps. The downside of cable is that you’re stuck with slower upload speeds. For symmetrical speeds, you need to turn to fiber. Montana includes some coverage from Quantum Fiber, Ziply Fiber, TDS Telecom or local ISPs like Montana Internet and Grizzly Broadband. If you’re currently battling pokey internet speeds, there are some things you can try to improve your situation. Check out these four essential steps for speeding up your internet connection.

Internet pricing in Montana

Home internet pricing is variable in Montana. On the low end, you can bundle an eligible T-Mobile phone plan with an internet plan to bring your internet price down to $30 per month. Most ISPs, however, kick off at the $50 and above level. That includes CenturyLink’s DSL networks and Quantum Fiber’s lowest tier, with the fiber plan being a superior deal for 500Mbps service. Availability is a big issue, though. Spectrum’s 500Mbps plan at $50 per month is one of the better values in Montana, but prepare yourself for a price hike once the two-year promotional period is up. You can always try to negotiate back to a better deal.

Internet for low-income households in Montana 

Federal assistance is available through the Affordable Connectivity Program for qualifying low-income households. The ACP can knock $30 ($75 on tribal lands) off your monthly bill. That means free or cheap internet. Most ISPs participate and some offer special plans for ACP-eligible customers. Spectrum, for example, has a no-cost 100Mbps plan that includes a modem. You can also choose a discount on a faster plan. 

The future of broadband in Montana

Since Montana is already near the bottom in internet speed for the US, there’s nowhere to go but up. Fortunately, there’s some movement in that direction, particularly regarding fiber availability. TDS Telecom announced in early 2023 that it would bring fiber speeds of up to 8 gigs to Helena, Butte, Missoula and Great Falls. It was already working on fiber in Billings. By the time TDS is done, it will service 150,000 homes and businesses. 

A considerable amount of funding is coming to expand broadband to underserved and unserved areas of the state. The federal Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program is delivering $630 million in funding. That’s in addition to a $309 million infrastructure investment announced by Governor Greg Gianforte in late 2022. That money is aimed at bringing reliable broadband to 62,000 homes, small businesses, farms and ranches.

Internet in Montana FAQs

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