Governor Janet Mills has signed landmark legislation to establish the Maine Connectivity Authority, a new entity charged with achieving universal availability of high-speed broadband in Maine.
“In today’s world, access to affordable, high-speed internet is as fundamental as electricity, heat, and water. If we want a strong economy and thriving state, we’ve simply got to have it,” said Governor Janet Mills. “By signing this bill into law, I’m sending the message that Maine is serious about broadband expansion, and with the Authority and robust funding from the American Rescue Plan, we will be in the driver’s seat when it comes to expanding affordable, high-speed broadband across the state, especially in rural areas. I look forward to standing up the Maine Connectivity Authority in the coming months and getting its important work underway.”
Using Federal funds allocated to the State of Maine under the American Rescue Plan, the Authority will work to ensure three goals: that effective, accessible connectivity be universally available in the state; that there be secure, affordable, reliable, competitive and sustainable forward-looking infrastructure that can meet future needs; and that all residents, businesses and institutions in Maine be able to take full advantage of the economic, health, educational, and other opportunities available through connectivity services.
The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senator Rick Bennett (R-Oxford) and co-sponsored by Representative Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) and the other Co-Chairs of the Legislature’s Broadband Caucus, passed the Legislature unanimously. The Governor will nominate the Board and appoint a President to be confirmed by the Legislature. The Board will work with an advisory team to create the operating processes to execute universal, affordable high speed broadband access.
"With the creation of the Maine Connectivity Authority through this new law, we have the promise of making every corner of Maine inviting and prosperous," said Senator Rick Bennett (R-Oxford)."The reality is that nobody will consider moving to a community without high-speed reliable internet. The very survival of many towns across our state is at stake, and with this action we have the ability to create a statewide broadband network swiftly, smartly, and wholly in the public interest."
“Fully funded and ably led, the Maine Connectivity Authority may one day be seen as a giant leap for Maine-kind, connecting us to jobs, to learning, to health care, and to one other,” said Representative Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), who serves as co-chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “Thanks to President Biden and Congress, to Governor Mills and Senator Bennett, today we glimpse a more connected and prosperous future for Maine.”
“This new law will allow Maine to utilize the creative and flexible tools needed to achieve the goal of universal, affordable high-speed access,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “The bipartisan support is a positive start for this important work.”
“The Maine Connectivity Authority is a game changer for our state,” said Dana Connors, President and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “The connectivity that broadband provides is essential for Maine’s economy and the lives and livelihoods of Maine people. Never has this been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Broadband expansion has long been a priority for Maine’s business community, and we appreciate the work of Governor Mills, the Legislature, and our Congressional Delegation to ensure high-speed internet access is available in every corner of Maine.”
“Unprecedented times call for transformative solutions. That is just what LD 1484 and the new Maine Connectivity Authority will be achieve for Maine's future,” said Andrew Butcher, Director of Innovation and Resilience for the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Director of the Maine Broadband Coalition. "We can't keep doing what we've always done and expect to get to anywhere different. The Maine Connectivity Authority will be a critical mechanism to create the digital infrastructure of Maine's future and the Maine Broadband Coalition is grateful to have contributed to the vision, policy, and development of the new agency."
More information about the Maine Connectivity Authority can be found HERE.
The creation of the Authority is the next step forward in Governor Mills’ commitment to expanding access to affordable broadband in Maine, one of her top priorities. Last year, the Governor secured the approval of a $15 million bond proposal for broadband, the first new investment in internet expansion in more than a decade, and her Administration is also spearheading a broadband mapping initiative to facilitate the expansion of broadband into areas with inadequate service.
Last year, the Governor 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.
Additionally, Governor Mills has signed the following bills into law:
- LD 1676 An Act To Limit Access to Juvenile Case Records and Protect the Confidentiality of Juvenile History Record Information
- LD 1688 An Act To Improve Consistency in Terminology and within the Maine Human Rights Act
Governor Mills has vetoed the following bills:
- LD 125 An Act To Prohibit the Aerial Spraying of Glyphosate and Other Synthetic Herbicides for the Purpose of Silviculture (PDF)
- LD 920 An Act To Promote Oversight of and Competitive Parity among Video Service Providers (PDF)
- LD 1134 An Act To Amend the Maine Bail Code Regarding Certain Conditions of Release (PDF)
- LD 1160 An Act To Reduce the Burden on Courts and Promote the Resolution of Civil Cases (PDF)
Veto messages from Governor Mills to the Legislature may be viewed by clicking on the corresponding bill links above.
Governor Mills continues to review bills enacted by the Legislature. The Governor’s Office will announce action on remaining bills in the coming days.