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Making it in Big Sky: 3 Rivers Communications

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BIG SKY – For this issue’s Making it in Big Sky, we spoke with Don Serido, marketing director for 3 Rivers Communications, Big Sky’s member-owned cooperative offering high speed internet, local and long distance voice service and business class services. Headquartered in Fairfield, MT, 3 Rivers established a business office in Big Sky back in 2008 and has grown with the community ever since.

This series is part of a paid partnership with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. The following answers have been edited for brevity.

Explore Big Sky: Tell me about the history of 3 Rivers:

Don Serido: 3 Rivers is a telecommunications cooperative that was formed in 1953 to provide telephone service to communities in rural north central Montana. The members of the cooperative own the company and elect a Board of Trustees that sets policy to represent members’ interests and ensure the company’s success. As a nonprofit organization, the cooperative seeks to provide our members the highest quality service at the most affordable rates. 

We currently have about 120 employees serving 16,000 members across Montana, covering 16,500 square miles from near the Canadian border in the north to the near Idaho and Wyoming borders in the south. Our headquarters is in Fairfield and we have customer service offices in Conrad and Big Sky.

3 Rivers purchased the Big Sky telephone exchange from Mountain Bell in 1980. This was during the era of the Bell Telephone Systems breakup and 3 Rivers purchased Big Sky along with several other exchanges, including Ennis, throughout the 1980’s and 90’s. 

3 Rivers first established a customer service/business office in Big Sky in 2008 on Skywood Road. In 2022 we built a huge new office/warehouse complex at 32 Running Iron Road to better serve our growing Big Sky member base. It’s staffed by long-time Big Sky resident and Customer Service Rep/Brand Ambassador Pride Moline, Customer Service Rep DiAnn Jones and Facility Operations Supervisor Tyler Lura and his crew.

EBS: What services do you provide and how have you grown over the years?

DS: 3 River provides broadband internet, local and long-distance telephone and business class services. We first launched Internet service (dial-up and DSL) in 1995. 

We now bring Fiber-to-the-Home technology to about 90% of our members, and that will reach close to 100% within the next couple of years. With FTTH, we replace the existing copper wire network with fiber optic cable and connect directly to residential and commercial buildings. Fiber optic cable has a huge capacity for delivering data that is practically future-proof. As new technologies emerge, we will be able to take advantage of them by simply changing out the equipment on either end of the fiber network without having to put anything new in the ground.  

Our fiber network allows us to provide up to 1 Gigabit per second broadband speeds and more, helping to drive economic development in Big Sky and all areas that we serve.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone reading this that Big Sky has been one of our biggest growth areas (along with Ennis) for years and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. We had 2,000 Internet subscribers in Big Sky in 2013. As of the end of July of this year, we have nearly 5,000!

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