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July 22, 2021

With Connectivity Authority's first board sworn in, it prepares to tackle broadband access gap

Courtesy / Office of Gov. Janet Mills Gov. Janet Mills, center, and the first board members of the newly created Maine Connectivity Authority.

Gov. Janet Mills this week swore in the first board of directors for the Maine Connectivity Authority, the new state agency charged with making high-speed internet service available throughout the state.

The Maine Senate unanimously confirmed the seven nominees earlier in the week. Mills signed legislation last month creating the authority, which she had proposed in April.

The quasi-public independent agency represents an ambitious push to address broadband infrastructure and affordability, and a different approach than what the state has taken in its 15-year effort to expand service in Maine under the ConnectME program.

The new authority will address the three major barriers in the state to universal high-speed broadband access: lack of physical infrastructure, lack of digital literacy and lack of affordability.

The effort, which is estimated to cost $600 million in total, will use $150 million in federal funds. Last year, voters approved a $15 million bond proposal for broadband, the first new investment in internet expansion in more than a decade.

The authority will have the power to own property and physical broadband infrastructure; hold equity in broadband projects; issue revenue bonds, and provide grants and loans; and forge partnerships with the private sector and municipalities to leverage investment and coordinate infrastructure buildout.

The commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, Heather Johnson, also holds a seat on the board.

“The lack of affordable, high-speed internet across Maine is not a new issue,” Mills said in a news release. “What is new is the focus my administration and the Legislature are bringing to finally get it done for Maine people. Now, with the Connectivity Authority and unprecedented federal funding, we have a once-in-a-generation chance to build the connections Maine people need to succeed.”

The Connectivity Authority board members are:

  • Carlos Javier Barrionuevo, of Georgetown, who works for Georgetown Broadband LLC and serves on the Georgetown Comprehensive Plan Committee;
  •  Daniel P. Belyea, of Vassalboro, who is chief workforce development officer at the Maine Community College System;
  • John Chandler, of Falmouth, who is a principal at Portland-based accounting and consulting firm BerryDunn;
  • Danielle Louder, of Augusta, who is co-director of Medical Care Development Inc.’s Domestic Public Health Division and Director of the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center;
  • Michael C. Reed, of Palermo, who is self-employed and has worked to spearhead and coordinate municipal broadband projects;
  • Timothy R Schneider, of Falmouth, who is general counsel for Tilson Technology and previously served as a Maine public advocate; and
  • Robert J. Souza, of Durham, who has 46 years of telecommunications experience and recently retired from Otelco Inc.

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