In a long-anticipated step toward better technology, CenturyLink announced an expansion of high-speed Internet service to residents and businesses in West Glacier through its acquisition of Qwest. Connection speeds will reach 12 Mbps in certain places, which will allow for consistent broadband speeds and facilitate video streaming, large downloads and other Internet possibilities. According to John Bemis, a Montana market development manager for CenturyLink, the service has been available since Sept. 14. For West Glacier residents, it means being connected to the world in a way that does not involve dial-up or satellite services, which are slower than broadband. “I’m so excited and it’s been a long, long, long time coming,” Sally Thompson, co-owner of the Glacier Outdoor Center, said. Thompson said the center’s U.S. Highway 2 East location has had high-speed Internet for a while because it was able to connect to a different line running outside of the village. But her Glacier Raft Company office in town did not have the same access and was operating on a satellite service. The new connection will be faster and more cost-effective for her business, Thompson said. It will also help bring in customers, she added; some guests would be surprised at the idea of not having Internet access since it’s a given in most areas. “It’s kind of like we’re finally catching up; we’re getting out of the dark ages,” Thompson said. For Cory Pierce, principal and teacher at West Glacier Elementary, broadband Internet service means students and teachers will have better access to educational tools. “It absolutely affects us in a very positive way; right now we are very limited in our Internet capabilities,” Pierce said. The school uses satellite service, which Pierce said is limited in its downloading capacity. With high-speed service, Pierce said the school is looking at Internet speeds of 7 Mbps, which will be “blazing” compared to the 1 Mbps or so teachers and students work with now. Despite the school’s rural location, West Glacier Elementary added a lot of technology this year, Pierce said, including online programs. Under the current system, downloading a web page or a file could take minutes, he said. “We are able to use them, but there’s a lot of wait time and down time for our students,” Pierce said. With faster connectivity, the students will be able to share their project on the history of West Glacier, Pierce said, which they are creating on 10 iPads. Eight of those iPads were provided by a grant and the school purchased two more, he said. Pierce said the school is scheduled for Internet installation on Oct. 18. “I can’t wait,” he said. When CenturyLink first announced the Qwest acquisition in September 2010, officials from the telecom company and Montana’s Public Service Commission met with village residents to get input. The PSC approved of the merger in December 2010 and the acquisition was complete in April 2011. “This has been a project in the works since day one, and with the efforts of the combined teams we were able to make this happen,” CenturyLink’s Bemis said. Flathead County Commissioner Jim Dupont lives in West Glacier and said the village has had its share of technological issues, including Internet and television services. Having faster Internet will only enhance the village, he said. “Obviously I don’t see any disadvantages to (high-speed Internet),” Dupont said. “It’s wonderful to have the technology, that’s for sure.” Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.