Bullock announces support for major broadband expansion in Montana

 
OFFICE OF GOV. STEVE BULLOCK
 
Gov. Steve Bullock on Oct. 6 announced T-Mobile will expand high-speed wireless broadband access in Montana. Bullock expressed his support of T-Mobile’s agreement with Charter Communications through a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.
 
“Montana’s economy is strong and we are seeing great opportunities for businesses to grow and expand all across the state,” Bullock said. “Increased access to high-speed internet and enhanced mobile coverage will further strengthen our state’s business climate and enable Montana businesses to thrive in a global economy, and create more job opportunities for hard-working Montana families.”
 
T-Mobile has agreed to buy Charter Communications wireless licenses in Montana and plans to aggressively build out the state for high-speed wireless broadband. Bullock expressed strong support to Chairman Wheeler for the transfer of three of Charter’s 700-megahertz spectrum licenses to provide Montana residents with increased access to high-speed services.
 
Through the purchase of these three licenses, which cover nearly all of Montana east of Interstate 15 and four counties in northwestern Wyoming, T-Mobile will be able to provide 4G LTE wireless broadband to underserved areas covering nearly 1.1 million people in the two states.

Montana residents urged to vote in Supreme Court race

MISSOULA (AP) – Montana residents are being called upon to vote in the upcoming state Supreme Court race.

Justice Jim Shea, who is running unopposed but will appear on the ballot for retention votes, said Oct. 10 at a Montana Supreme Court election forum in Missoula that 40,000 voters in 2014 didn’t vote in the Supreme Court races, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.

“It’s like the third-largest city in Montana just staying home,” he said. “We are the third co-equal branch of government in this state, and there are only seven of us on the Supreme Court. These are important races.”

Shea and Chief Justice Mike McGrath are both on November’s ballot unopposed, but longtime Cascade County District Judge Dirk Sandefur and former adjunct professor of law Kristen Juras are competing for an eight-year term to replace Justice Patricia Cotter.

At the election forum, both Shea and McGrath called on voters to better understand what the court does and to actively help shape Montana’s judicial system.

“We’re the only ones who don’t make decisions with an eye toward making everybody happy,” Shea said. “To quote [U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John] Roberts, the job of a judge is to call balls and strikes. We don’t get to change the strike zone because the Mariners are one game back to the wild card.”

Copyright 2016 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

September park visitation increases by 3 percent

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – Visitation numbers for September increased in Yellowstone National Park. The overall increase for September 2016 totaled 3.17 percent over September 2015. The first eight months of 2016 are up 4.1 percent compared to the previous year.

Two of the park’s five entrances (South Entrance and Northeast Entrance) showed a slight decrease in vehicles for the month of September compared to September 2015. The South Entrance showed a decrease because it was closed for three days due to fire activity south of the park.

Once again, buses showed the most striking increase in vehicle traffic. A total of 2,361 buses were in the park this September compared to 1,934 buses in September 2015 – a 22 percent increase from 2015.

While many factors could be at play, park managers point to the National Park Service’s Centennial year, marketing and tourism promotions by the states of Montana and Wyoming, and lower gas prices as influences for the record number of visits to Yellowstone so far this year.

Visit irma.nps.gov/Stats/Reports/Park for additional park visitation data and information on how these statistics are calculated.

Feds warn Montana over compliance with driver’s license law

By Matt Volz Associated Press

HELENA (AP) – Homeland security officials have warned Gov. Steve Bullock that the state may not get any more time to comply with federal driver’s license rules, meaning residents may eventually need a different form of identification to board commercial aircraft.

In response, Bullock wrote Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson a letter Oct. 11 urging him to suspend implementation of the Real ID Act and accept Montana licenses as secure forms of identification.

“The Obama administration continues to push what I think is a real misguided effort, this Real ID Act,” Bullock said in an interview. “I’ve written Secretary Johnson to say it’s time to suspend your efforts and go back to the Congress and get this fixed because Montana is not going to be in compliance.”

Montana and several other states oppose requirements in the federal law that include storing images of documents that driver’s license applicants present as proof of their identity, such as birth certificates. The state already has been granted two one-year extensions to get in compliance. But a letter sent Sept. 15 by Homeland Security Deputy Assistant Secretary Ted Sobel said states that can’t commit to fully complying with the law may not receive any more extensions.

Montana’s latest extension expired Oct. 10, and the state has no plans to align its driver’s licenses with the federal law.
The state Legislature in 2007 voted unanimously not to comply with Real ID. Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox have both insisted Montana’s licenses are secure without meeting all of the requirements of the federal law.

States that don’t get new extensions will have a temporary grace period before their driver’s licenses aren’t accepted for admission to federal facilities and nuclear power plants. By January 2018, domestic air travelers with licenses from those states will have to show an alternative form of identification to board planes.

Bullock said that leaves more than a year for Congress to change the law, “and I expect Congress to fix it.”

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005 to prevent terrorism and identity theft by improving the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, according to federal officials. State officials say the information that is stored could be breached and could be used to track ordinary U.S. citizens.

Copyright 2016 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.