AUGUSTA — A public forum, “What Is Broad Band Internet Access and Why Should We Care?” is set for 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, at the University of Maine at Augusta in Jewett Auditorium.

The event, sponsored by UMA Senior College and the College of Arts and Sciences, will present keynote speaker Ralph Johnson, a member of the ConnectME Authority, who will discuss why improving high-speed, or “broad band” internet is vital for the economy of Maine and how it could help to enhance the lives of older people by improving access to health care and enabling them to socialize and keep in touch with friends and relatives.

Maine lags behind almost every other state in the nation in the development of broadband internet access. Yet it is essential to attract telecommuters — a creative and rapidly growing sector of the working population — to live here. Because telephone companies are reluctant to invest in low-populated rural areas, a public-private coalition will be necessary to establish a system. A proposal for a bond measure to support broadband internet access, originally intended to be on the ballot this November, was held over for refinement in the upcoming legislative session, according to a UMA news release.

Johnson, with extensive experience as top information officer for several major health facilities, will explain, in terms understandable to all of us, the significance of broad band and ways in which it might work. He will also focus on how broad band can help us keep in touch with family and can also have an impact on keeping us healthy.

Joining Johnson on a panel are Dick Thompson, chief information officer of the University of Maine System, who will talk about the application of the internet access to education, and Peggy Schaffer, vice chair of the Maine Broad Band Coalition, who will address the importance of broad band for Maine businesses to compete in the world marketplace.

UMASC forums are free and open to the public. Refreshments are served during a brief break, followed by a question and answer period.

For more information, call 621-3551 or email [email protected].

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