I am a college student from Burnham, and in the last few months I have been reminded of just how necessary a reliable internet connection is for all, particularly as a result of my campus’ closure because of COVID-19.

In March, my school announced it would be closing for the remainder of the spring semester. Finishing the semester remotely meant that my access to everything from class itself to resources for completing homework depended on my internet connection. At home, I had to learn how to virtually attend class, meet with librarians for research help, attend professors’ office hours, participate in extracurriculars, and take exams. I also applied to internships from home and relied on my wireless internet for interviews over Zoom.

I slowly adapted, but could only continue to function as a student provided my internet connection remained stable. As this was a stressful period, I was reminded that for many, college exacerbates existing mental health conditions, and teletherapy during a remote semester depends on an internet connection.

While COVID-19 has highlighted the need for universal access to reliable internet, including for students, it is important to recognize that disparities have long existed in Maine relating to internet access. Many school children rely on public libraries for internet needed for homework, business owners struggle to network, and those living in rural areas like Burnham are already at a higher risk of becoming isolated.

During the primary election on July 14, we will have the opportunity to expand internet access in rural Maine by voting “yes” on Question 1, a ballot referendum that would provide $15 million to fund high-speed internet expansion to underserved and unserved areas. It is imperative that all Mainers have the internet infrastructure in place that will help us adapt to the “new normal.”

 

Micaela Simeone

Burnham


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