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Updated: January 9, 2023

2023 Forecast: Maine will see its largest infusion of investment in high-speed broadband

Photo / Courtesy of MAINE CONNECTIVITY AUTHORITY Andrew Butcher, president of Maine Connectivity Authority.

In the coming year, Maine will continue to experience the largest-ever infusion of investment in high-speed broadband internet.

It will be the first large-scale investment in Maine broadband since the Three Ring Binder project, which dates to 2009.

Maine Connectivity Authority, a quasi-governmental agency, was created in 2021 to achieve universal access to affordable high-speed broadband in Maine. It is led by Andrew Butcher, who was previously director of the Maine Broadband Coalition.

Maine Connectivity Authority will facilitate the investment in last-mile infrastructure, community planning, and digital equity. It’s expected the investment will total at least $250 million, with funding coming from federal relief funds and infrastructure appropriations.

“This 10x surge of investment will result in direct growth in the construction and engineering sectors as well as significant economic multipliers through expanded remote learning, telehealth, precision agriculture, and forestry and advancing an ever-growing dependency on remote working opportunities,” says Butcher. “Strategic investments in the state’s backbone, or ‘middle mile’ infrastructure, will further reveal opportunities for infrastructure to support community anchor institutions, school districts and a more resilient and intelligent electric grid.”

The agency is sponsoring a workforce development analysis to help identify the hiring needs of numerous internet service providers and telecommunications construction firms across the state.

“The current wave of investment in broadband — enabled through federal recovery and relief funds — will be further complemented by the state’s allocation of infrastructure funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Broadband Equity Access Deployment (BEAD) Program,” says Butcher.

High-interest rates, supply chain shortages and workforce limitations will significantly affect the ability to deploy these investments in broadband.

The agency is convening a capital investment advisory committee consisting of experts from banking, philanthropy and the financial industry. This group will review the capital stack available to those investing in broadband and make recommendations about creative solutions that enable MCA to continue to leverage private investment in this space effectively.

Maine Connectivity Autoritty has numerous upcoming projects, including Correct the Dots, Broadband Action Planning, All-In Programs, and MOOSE Net. The last project will support education, training, and employment readiness programs through our workforce collaborations with the Maine Community College System, the Maine Department of Labor, and others.

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