MISSOULA, Mont. -

A Montana company announced Wednesday that it entered into an agreement to acquire FairPoint Idaho, which provides data and voice services for thousands of people in eastern Idaho.

FairPoint Idaho includes Fremont Telcom Co. and Fretel Communications LLC, and is part of FairPoint Communications, is a publicly traded company based in Charlotte, N.C.

Missoula-based Blackfoot Telecommunications Group said the expanded network will bring innovative technology products and services from Blackfoot's successful Internet protocol (IP) network to the region.

"We welcome the opportunity to serve our neighbor state. As a locally owned business, we understand the value of our strong customer relationships in western Montana and are eager to earn the same trust in Idaho,” said Bill Squires, Blackfoot's chief executive officer, in a news release. “We believe the stability of our top tier IP network adds significant value to eastern Idaho. It will improve the area’s ability to attract new businesses while giving owners and residents more service options to meet their growing communications needs. Through our advanced wireless and fiber connectivity, Blackfoot can offer a new world of more competitive products and services to the region.”

This expansion is part of the company's Smart Growth initiative, which it said is the shared vision between Blackfoot's board of trustees and Blackfoot's executive team to become the region's technology leader.

Overall, the acquisition adds 5,400 business and residential customers to Blackfoot’s growing network, boosting its high-capacity fiber backbone by 25 percent across 8,500 square miles in both states. It also includes a minority investment in Syringa Networks, LLC, which is a rapidly growing fiber transport and related services business.

Currently, Fretel serves Idaho Falls, Rexburg, St. Anthony, Teton, Ashton and Island Park. In addition, Blackfoot Telecommunications wants to expand services to Pocatello.

The sale is expected to close in early 2013, pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission. The process of integrating employees as well as Fremont and Fretel customers into the Blackfoot family of companies will begin immediately thereafter, the company said.