2 historic broadband investments will be transformational for Maine

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By U.S

By US Senator Angus King, I-Maine

When I ran for the Senate in 2012, the very first opinion piece I wrote was about the need to expand broadband access in Maine. At the time, I argued that in the 21st century, “High-speed Internet is the primary channel for information and interconnection… just as roads, bridges, canals and power lines were. in the past “. Almost 10 years and a pandemic that rocked the globe later, that statement has proven to be true beyond my wildest imagination.

With that in mind, here’s a title we’re truly grateful for this week: 2021 will be the year connecting every American to affordable broadband, and high-speed has gone from a draw to a plan.

Today, we all know that affordable broadband and broadband is not a luxury – it is an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to fully engage in the life of the 21st century. The pandemic did not create the digital divide, but it exposed it for all to see. As schools and offices closed, students and workers without a reliable internet struggled to stay on top of their responsibilities, and the elderly and vulnerable populations had to find ways to access dating. essential telemedicine.

Sen Angus King, I-Maine

As co-chair of the bipartisan Senate broadband caucus, I focused on bridging the digital divide; in light of the pandemic, the whole country was finally paying attention. The action was more than possible, it was urgent. I’m proud to say that Congress has stood for the moment, passing the two biggest investments the country has ever made in broadband infrastructure. As a result, in the coming years, Maine is expected to receive over $ 400 million in federal broadband funding.

The process began in the first months of 2021, when I worked alongside several of my colleagues to include more than $ 17 billion in broadband funding as part of the US bailout. The package included $ 10 billion for broadband deployment and infrastructure, and will provide more than $ 7 billion to expand educational connectivity and fill the “homework gap”.

Final result ? This legislation will provide nearly $ 130 million in federal funding in Maine to support the deployment of broadband. It’s a major investment, but it was just a down payment on the work to come.

The second part of that effort was finalized last week when President Joe Biden sign the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – otherwise known as the “bipartite infrastructure bill” – into law. Senator Susan Collins and I have worked with our bipartisan colleagues to secure vital provisions to rebuild our roads and bridges, support clean water, and more, but the provisions that excite me most are – you l ‘ve guessed – broadband.

The IIJA is providing $ 65 billion to expand affordable broadband and digital equity across the country. More than $ 40 billion of this funding is based on the BRIDGE Act, bipartisan legislation that I brought forward with Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. These funds will go directly to states so that local leaders can make decisions on how best to meet the connectivity and affordability needs specific to our communities.

This broadband expansion will be a vital boost to traditional Maine industries, such as farmers and the forest products sector, will optimize their production while attracting new high-tech companies to Maine.

The benefits will also strengthen communities in our state – especially rural communities – who have struggled without reliable broadband. If you’ve found the home of your dreams in a fantastic community, but your real estate agent said, “By the way, you could never get a good Wi-Fi connection,” would you buy the house? I do not think so. It was a real conversation that brought down home values ​​and spurred population decline in good Maine communities; Investments in broadband are changing the math, creating new jobs and exciting economic opportunities.

When I think about the work we’ve done to expand broadband over the past year, one word comes to mind: transformational. With every generation or so, a new technology arrives that completely redefines how the world works, and when that happens, the government has a responsibility to ensure that no Americans are left behind. FDR did this in the 1930s by funding rural electrification to ensure that no community was left in the dark, and Dwight Eisenhower literally created a roadmap for economic opportunity by connecting all corners of the country via the interstate road network.

This is our moment. Over the past year, Congress has invested in bringing the promise of the Internet to every corner of our state, so every person in Maine is just a click away from good jobs, an education of high quality, life-saving medical care and more. . We have invested in Maine’s future and built the foundation for success that will last for generations to come.

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