In what has been heralded as a game-changer for Maine, the state will receive more than $128 million in federal relief to expand broadband access for households and businesses.
Legislation approved by the U.S. Senate last week provides $128,245,250 for Maine from the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. In addition to the funding for broadband, Maine's five indigenous tribes will receive $167,000 under the same legislation.
Combined with the broadband funds Maine is projected to receive from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that's currently before the U.S. House of Representatives, the state is in line to receive hundreds of millions of dollars to boost affordable high-speed broadband access and narrow Maine's digital divide, the office of U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said in a news release Friday.
In a separate announcement, Gov. Janet Mills said: "This pandemic has laid bare the dire need for strong connectivity in every part of Maine, and this federal funding will be a tremendous boon to our efforts to expand affordable, high-speed Internet across the state."
"With this federal funding, we will redouble our efforts to ensure that all Maine people and Maine businesses, regardless of zip code, are able to utilize the vital tool that is broadband to improve their lives and grow our economy."
The funds will be used by the Maine Connectivity Authority, a new quasi-independent agency tasked with making high-speed Internet service available throughout the state.
'Game changing for Maine'
Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson, a Portland-based network deployment and IT professional services provider with a national footprint, told Mainebiz he expects the funding to have a huge impact in Maine.
"This federal broadband funding will be game changing for rural Maine, and will bring globally competitive broadband to tens of thousands of Mainers," said Broder, who was honored as a Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year in 2018. "This is foundational for us building a modern economy and connecting all of us to education, work and health care."
King, who co-chairs the Senate Broadband Caucus said the $128 million for broadband will create new opportunities for people throughout Maine, especially in rural areas.
"It is clear as day that a high-speed, affordable broadband connection is fundamental to participating in the 21st century economy," he said. "Too many Maine families have been forced to go without that vital tool — watching economic opportunities disappear, struggling to access their education and missing on convenient ways to access critical health care."
"These American Rescue Funds, combined with the investments included in the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure deal, are a major step towards ensuring that every Maine person — regardless of where they live — can access the opportunities provided by a broadband connection. My colleagues and I worked hard to include these funds in the American Rescue Plan, and I'm glad to see the bill will continue to meet the needs of Maine people."