June 13, 2017

Senate OKs bill to expand broadband access in Maine

The Maine Senate on Monday gave unanimous initial approval to a bill by Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, that would pave the way for a new round of broadband expansion in Maine, with a goal of connecting every family, small businesses and school with reliable, high-speed internet.

The bill — LD 1399 "An Act To Encourage Broadband Coverage in Rural Maine" — would create the Maine Broadband Initiative, a public-private entity with the authority to undertake planning and investment in advanced communications technology infrastructure, defined by the bill as broadband and wireless coverage at competitive upload and download speeds.

Today, 85% of Mainers don't have access to upload/download speeds of 10Mbps, a benchmark that's rapidly becoming outdated, according to a news release about Bellows' bill from the Senate Democratic Office.

"High-speed, reliable Internet is a game-changer for rural communities," Bellows said. "It gives businesses access to customers and partners all over the world. It gives workers the ability to clock in at jobs all over the world from their homes in rural Maine. This investment in modern infrastructure will give young people and businesses the ability to thrive in our state and will help foster economic development in rural Maine."

What the broadband bill would do

The Maine Broadband Initiative would be empowered to create statewide broadband benchmarks and strategies for meeting them. It also would plan, construct, acquire or improve broadband infrastructure in Maine and serve as the fiscal agent for public investment in broadband.

LD 1399 is revenue neutral, according to the fiscal note attached to bill's summary: MBI would be funded by diverting revenue from the existing telecommunications excise tax, which currently goes into the General Fund, into the buildout of advanced communications technology infrastructure.

At a recent public hearing, people and companies from around the state spoke in favor of the bill including, including John Hafford, who owns DesignLab, a graphic design firm in Millinocket; Stephenie MacLagan, economic development association at The Island Institute; the Maine Farm Bureau; ConnectME Authority; Maine Municipal Association; and GrowSmart ME.

LD 1399 now heads to the House for initial votes.


Type your comment here:

Today's Poll Should the Legislature keep the minimum wage law in place the way it is set up by the November 2016 referendum approved by 55% of voters?<>
Most Popular on Facebook