As one of the most sparsely populated counties in the state, Somerset County is all too familiar with the lack of access to high-speed internet in a rural community. In Starks last year I was told about a family choosing to move to Maine and buy a home in Somerset County only to discover that there was no broadband and they would be unable to work from home. In Starks during the school year some of our students were getting way behind because they had no access to broadband at home. One young man was concerned that he might not graduate. Stories like these remind us of why expanding broadband access to every Mainer must be a priority.

Fortunately, during her inaugural address, Gov. Mills doubled down on her promise that “by the end of 2024 every person in Maine who wants a good internet connection will have one.” Her leadership, as well as significant state and federal funding aimed at expanding broadband, have provided us with a historic opportunity to make this lofty objective a reality.

But to get every Mainer access, broadband funding must be deployed equitably, with priority given to those that have the greatest need: rural communities that lack any access to high-speed internet. Some activists are prioritizing policies that “future-proof” networks in communities that are already served by multiple high-speed providers. Those making this call are likely just trying to give communities the best technology possible, but the inadvertent outcome is that unserved residents, in areas that have no service at all, will go to the back of the line and continue to go without the connectivity and the critical resources that come with it, like remote learning and telehealth.

To achieve the Mills administration’s goal of universal access by the end of 2024, we must prioritize the unserved communities that have been neglected for far too long.

Betty Frederic


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