Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Contact: Peggy Schaffer, Small Business Advocate
626-8410 or

Maine Broadband Coalition joined by legislators in support of internet connectivity bills

AUGUSTA – Today the Maine Broadband Coalition highlighted a number of legislative initiatives to increase Maine’s connectivity to the world.

Access to reliable, high-speed Internet is crucial to full participation in 21st century economy, just as access to roads, telephone and electricity were in the 20th century. But more than eight out of every 10 Mainers live in an area where even the minimum broadband standard (upload/download speeds of at least 10 Mbps) is unavailable. That minimum standard is rapidly falling behind the standards in much of the country and the world.

The Coalition held a news conference Wednesday to bring attention to 11 bills before the Legislature this session that would expand broadband access in Maine.

One of those bills, sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows, would expand funding for broadband expansion and Maine and would establish the Maine Broadband Initiative –  a new public-private entity with the authority to undertake planning and investment for broadband expansion.

The MBI would be empowered to create statewide broadband benchmarks and strategies for meeting them, and would plan, construct, acquire or improve broadband infrastructure in Maine. It would support local and regional broadband expansion, collect and maintain information to establish benchmarks and serve as the fiscal agent for public investment in broadband.

“The level of access to high-speed, reliable Internet service in our state will help determine the future of our economy, our healthcare and even the demographics of our rural communities,” said Sen. Bellows. “Where people are able to live and work in 21st-century America depends upon their access to 21st-century utility broadband access.”

Sen. Bellows’ bill, as well as the 10 other broadband bills this session, share broad bipartisan support, proving that policymakers from all over the state understand the potential that expanded broadband could have for families, businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs in their districts.

“I’ve signed on as a co-sponsor to just about every broadband bill this session because I understand that access to high-speed internet is critical to our survival in Washington County,” said Sen. Joyce Maker, R-Calais. “Our county is about as rural and poor as you get in Maine. Whether it’s small businesses like Tide Mill Farms in Edmunds or large, global companies like the pulp and paper mill in Woodland, businesses across my county need access to the internet to succeed.”

Peggy Schaffer, the Small Business Advocate in the Secretary of State’s office and co-chair of the Maine Broadband Coalition, said “Maine has an opportunity this session to build on the good work of past legislatures to really make an impact in how we make sure Maine people and businesses can be competitive and connected for this and the next generation. We are excited to be able to work with legislators, communities and broadband providers across Maine to make this happen.”

Other bills to expand broadband and telemedicine in Maine include:

  • LD 140 An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support Entrepreneurial Activity, Attract Business and Enhance Demographic In-migration by Investing in High-speed Broadband Infrastructure and To Amend the Law Governing the Municipal Gigabit Broadband Network Access Fund - Representative Higgins
  • LD 256 An Act To Ensure Continued Availability of High-speed Broadband Internet at Maine's Schools and Libraries - Representative Grohman
  • LD 421 An Act To Promote Economic Development and Critical Communications for Rural Family Farms, Businesses and Residences by Strategic Public Investment in High-speed Internet – Representative McCrea
  • LD 423 An Act To Extend Internet Availability in Rural Maine – Representative Alley
  • LD 406 - An Act To Amend the Law Regarding Joint Use of Certain Utility and Telecommunications Infrastructure – Submitted by the Public Utilities Commission, Senator Woodsome
  • LD 520 An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Increase Rural Maine's Access to Broadband Internet Service -  Representative Berry
  • LD 949 – An Act Regarding Telehealth - Senator Gratwick
  • LD 1359 - An Act To Adopt the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact  - Senator Gratwick
  • LD 1372 –An Act To Increase Broadband Access for Rural Communities –  Representative  Herbig 
  • LD 1399 - An Act to Encourage Broadband– Sen. Bellows 
  • LD 1472 An Act To Lower the Costs of Broadband Service by Coordinating the Installation of Broadband Infrastructure  - Rep McLean
  • LD 1485 An Act Regarding MaineCare Coverage for Telehealth Services  -  Senator Gratwick

Here’s what others are saying about the importance of broadband for Maine’s future:

Speaker of the House Sara Gideon:
“Maine ranks 49th out of the 50 American states for the quality of our broadband services, putting us at a serious economic disadvantage. This is no longer an optional investment. Without this digital infrastructure, we know Maine companies will not be able to compete, new companies will not move here, and talented young people will leave.”

Rep. Seth Berry, House chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee:
“The Energy, Utility and Technology Committee has an opportunity through the broadband bills in front of us to advance high speed, reliable Internet service in our state will help determine the future of our economy, our healthcare and even the demographics of our rural communities. Where people are able to live and work in 21st century America depends upon their access to an important 21rst century utility – broadband access.  Our committee is really focused on the opportunity access to competitive high speed broadband will have on Maine’s economy.”

Danny Sullivan, IT director for Woodland Pulp and St. Croix Tissue in Woodland:
“The need for our engineers and other employees to support our 24X7 operations from their homes is paramount to the success of our business.  Notwithstanding the direct needs of our business for high speed connectivity to the global business world, our ability to recruit professionals, such as engineers and operations managers, will be adversely impacted by lack of broadband availability for business and personal use in the homes. This is also true for our hourly labor force.  Superior broadband service is not only a competitive advantage; it is a basic requisite for sustaining our business.”

John Hafford, owner of Design Labs in Millinocket
"As we learn to leverage more efficient communication through broadband, I believe more Mainers will choose to stay in their hometowns, entrepreneurs will come back to their hometowns and as more people feel connected to the world through broadband, I think more people will choose to live in great places like Maine."

Stephanie MacLagan, Economic Development Associate  at the Island Institute
“Due to the low population density of rural areas, there is no incentive for the internet service providers to invest in broadband infrastructure beyond their current rate of investment, which is not fast enough. Our state, and especially our rural communities, cannot afford to continue falling further and further behind the digital divide and behind the rest of the nation in our economic productivity.”

The Maine Broadband Coalition is an informal federation of public policy professionals, educational institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals with an interest in Maine’s economic future. The coalition gathers information for legislators to demonstrate how investing in world-class telecommunications infrastructure will draw people and investments to Maine.