A retired teacher can boast she has the fastest residential Internet in Missoula.

At least for a couple of days.

That's because Tara Smathers will soon be joined by several hundred customers, as TDS Fiber becomes the latest company to entire the race to claim customers to faster Internet service than we've had commonly available in Missoula.

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Rollout comes a year after announcement

Last year, TDS Fiber announced it had expanded its Montana footprint by adding Missoula to the list of cities across the Treasure State where it's begun offering broadband service, with direct residential and business connections.

While it's not the first direct fiber service in the region, it marks the first time one of the players in the competitive broadband space has directly targeted the residential market.

RELATED: Huge Broadband Project to Connect Western Montana Valleys

First customer sees fiber as big leap in learning

Retired K-12 teacher Tava Smathers became Customer #1 Monday, as TDS Fiber crews hooked up her Fleet Street home. She tells me the faster service will be invaluable in her work instructing other teachers and librarians who are University of Montana students. Some are elsewhere in the Northwest, and even as far away as Egypt. She says the TDS service will not only be faster but give her more confidence of not losing her work. Plus she loves to stream Netflix and admits the connection is for work and play.

Just the start

Field Marketing Manager Ryan Corwin says the company hopes to connect up to 1700 customers by the end of '24, eventually targeting up to 35,000 customers in Missoula, south to Lolo.

He says installation is quick, with most customers receiving the pencil-thin line with minimal disruption to landscaping, using a simple horizontal cut, and then an entry point at the home's foundation in most cases.

TDS Fiber broadband
Dennis Bragg photo

Competitive Pricing

TDS is hoping its "symmetrical speeds", with upload speeds as fast as download, up to 8 gigs in most service areas, will offer the market advantage. Prices will start at $29.95 a month for 300Mbps connections. However, the company is offering "lifetime" prices where customers can lock in a fixed price for their service.

Full details are on the TDS website, where people can register for service. There will also be a "fiber forum" at the Missoula Public Library, starting at 6 pm on April 16th.

RELATED: New Missoula Fiber Won't Help Rural Customers Right Away

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Gallery Credit: Ashley