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February 15, 2017

Bill would address dwindling broadband subsidy for schools, libraries

With revenues dwindling that support more than 900 schools and libraries across the state to pay for high-speed broadband connections, state Rep. Marty Grohman, D-Biddeford, has proposed legislation that would boost the funding stream and bring revenues back up to the necessary level of funding.

Maine Public reported that six years ago, the fee on charges for in-state telephone calls brought in just over $4 million to help pay for the fiber connections. But those revenues have dropped to under $3 million, as more and more Mainers have moved from making calls to texting or other forms of cell phone messaging.

Grohman's proposed legislation, Maine Public reported, would boost the fee and bring revenues back up to $4.2 million.

Grohman told Maine Public he's committed to working on a funding stream that is fair but also provides enough money to maintain a system important to rural Maine communities.

"It's something we tend to take for granted, but it brings high speed — and I mean super high speed, including fast uploads — to schools and libraries all over Maine, including rural Maine," he said.

Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who co-chairs the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee that will consider Grohman's bill, said finding an equitable funding mechanism is important because if the state's share diminishes "then so will the federal share."

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