Jul 14, 2022

Maine will receive $110 million for broadband expansion projects

Maine will receive $110 million in federal funds to expand broadband to about 22,500 homes in the state.

Maine will receive $110 million in federal funds to expand broadband to about 22,500 homes in the state.

Sen. Angus King, who made the announcement with White House officials Thursday, said the new funds will help connect about a quarter of Maine households that currently lack high-speed internet.

"We have schools in rural Maine — I was just meeting with a superintendent yesterday — where there's no connection to the home," he said. "So the kids go to the school where we do have a connection, sit out next to the school and do their homework at nine o'clock at night."

The funds come from the American Rescue Plan and will flow to the Maine Connectivity Authority, which manages a competitive broadband grant program. King said projects should start sometime this fall.

Maine will eventually receive about $18 million more in ARP funding for broadband expansion, as well as a few hundred million dollars through the bipartisan infrastructure law.

All told, the funding should be enough to bridge the broadband gap for the rest of the state, said King, who likened high-speed internet expansion to rural electrification in the 1930s.

"An initiative like this has enormous economic power for the revitalization for rural America," he said. "One of the things we learned from the pandemic is how you can effectively work from home, but you can't do that unless you have a good connection, unless you have broadband. But providing broadband to the small towns in rural America ... will enable people to expand their economic opportunities and still stay in the communities where they grew up, where they love and where they want to live."

Maine was one of four states that had its plan for accepting broadband funds approved and announced by the U.S Treasury Department on Thursday.

Plans for each state must require that internet service providers participate in a program from the Federal Communications Commission, which provides eligible households with a discount of up to $30 a month, or $75 for homes on tribal lands.

"Some of these funds are going to be used to provide affordable access," King said. "It doesn't do you any good if the wire goes right by your house but you can't afford to pay for the service."