Things move fast in the Legislature, so it’s understandable that Kim Lindlof (“Cellphone tax to expand ConnectME is bad idea,” June 5) missed the cellphone data tax being removed from any legislation this session. Unfortunately, other parts of the column also contain out of date and inaccurate information.

While other states are building out networks that range from 100 mbps to a gigabyte and more, Maine lags woefully behind. Roughly 80 percent of Maine does not even have access to speeds of 10 mbs download and 10 mbps upload.In the global economy, this is a huge disadvantage to Maine. Simply put, access to the Internet is critical for companies to compete or even survive.

The Maine Broadband Coalition formed this spring, bringing the voices of farmers, communities, health care providers, internet service providers, educators and citizens together to change state policies and to increase funding options.

But, state and federal funding assistance does not mean “government owned” networks. Far from it.

Towns across Maine are working with providers and ConnectME Authority to expand their networks to unserved areas of the state. These are not “government-owned” networks — they are towns and private sector providers working together to expand high speed broadband into parts of Maine completely unserved by Internet. It is a model that works, but much too slowly.

Lack of access to high-speed broadband is an expensive problem — some estimates are upwards of $2 billion to connect all of Maine to fiber. We’ve taken critical steps to move forward, including the federally funded “Three Ring Binder,” which strung more than 1,000 miles of dark fiber capable of caring 5 petabytes of data across Maine.

The Maine Broadband Coalition believes the Legislature is headed in the right direction with reforms this session. But, similar to the rural electrification challenge of last century, making sure Maine businesses and communities have access to true high-speed broadband is going to take a strong partnership between the private sector and the public sector. Communities and business cannot afford to alone, nor can they wait for cable and phone providers to decide its profitable enough to expand investments to rural Maine.

Peggy Schaffer is the co-chairwoman of the Maine Broadband Coalition.

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