Funds will be utilized by newly-created Maine Connectivity Authority to expand access to affordable broadband
Governor Janet Mills today praised an announcement from the U.S. Treasury Department that it is allocating more than $128 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to expand Maine broadband.
The funds will be utilized by the Maine Connectivity Authority, the creation of which Governor Mills spearheaded with bipartisan support from the Legislature, to bring affordable, high-speed broadband to more Maine people and businesses.
“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. It is exactly why my Administration, with the strong bipartisan support of the Legislature, created the Maine Connectivity Authority,” said Governor Janet Mills. “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. I want to thank Senator King, a champion for broadband, for his fierce and successful advocacy to secure these important funds for Maine. They will make a significant difference in the lives of Maine people.”
Expanding access to affordable broadband is one of Governor Mills’ top priorities. Earlier this year, she signed into law bipartisan legislation establishing the Maine Connectivity Authority, a new entity charged with achieving universal availability of high-speed broadband in Maine. The Authority is empowered to own physical broadband infrastructure, such as poles and wires, and to hold equity in broadband projects. It is also empowered to provide grants and loans and partner with the private sector and local communities to leverage investment and coordinate buildout of infrastructure. The Authority positions Maine to take a more proactive approach to closing the digital divide in rural and hard-to-reach communities that will focus on meeting Maine’s current and future needs, rather than reacting in a piecemeal fashion with various private companies to construct a patchwork of infrastructure.
Last year, the Governor also spearheaded the approval of a $15 million bond proposal for broadband, which was overwhelmingly supported by Maine voters and was the first new investment in internet expansion in more than a decade. Her Administration is also spearheading a broadband mapping initiative to facilitate the expansion of broadband into areas with inadequate service.
She also dedicated $5.6 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds in partnership with private internet providers to build out permanent internet infrastructure to more than 730 students across rural Maine. The initiative built on the Mills Administration’s previous work to secure mobile hotspots and learning devices for nearly 24,000 students across Maine after schools suspended in-classroom instruction and adopted remote learning earlier this year.
These funds announced today are drawn from the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, which was secured by Senator King in the final legislation, and passed 50-49 with the Senator’s vote. In addition to $128,245,250 in broadband funding for the state, each of Maine’s five tribes will receive $167,000 in funding.