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Oct 20, 2023

Letter: Extend critical internet connectivity funding

In this Aug. 22, 2023, file photo, Easton Town Clerk Cheryl Clark works at her desk at the Easton Town Office. Easton has just completed its expansion of the broadband interest services this year. Credit: Paul Bagnall / The Star-Herald

Connectivity has become a necessity, which means that addressing the digital divide — the gap between those who have high-speed internet connectivity and those who don’t — should be a priority. Unfortunately, a much-needed program that has delivered connectivity to more than 21 million American households, including approximately 93,000 here in Maine, is on the cusp of running out of funding if Congress does not act. I know from my time in Augusta how critical it is that Maine families are able to get reliable, high-speed internet.

The Affordable Connectivity Program alleviates the burden for those who would otherwise not be able to get online. Additionally, it is key to complementing rural broadband expansion efforts by lowering the subsidy needed to get providers to build out to our nation’s most rural areas. The program is not just about delivering a connection, but all of the services that come with it. So many households depend on it to ensure they stay connected to e-commerce, employment opportunities and the online resources that their kids need for school.

Without action, we run the risk of disconnecting Mainers from our broader economy, as well as equipping our students with the materials they need to thrive in the classroom. We are fortunate to have a senator in Susan Collins who supported the very bill that created the Affordable Connectivity Program — the bipartisan Infrastructure law. Our leaders in Congress should prioritize building upon this great work and extending this critical program’s funding.

Sen. Matt Pouliot

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